A real “Sheldon”! He really won the Nobel Prize, and the ending is more perfect than in the play

▎WuXi AppTec Content Team Editor

Editor’s note

In less than a week, the highly anticipated Nobel Prize winners will be announced. As in previous years, the WuXi AppTec content team will also report the progress of the Nobel Prize for readers and friends as soon as possible. In this September, let us review the important discoveries that have won the Nobel Prize. These scientific breakthroughs have completely changed our understanding of nature.

If you’ve watched The Big Bang Theory, you must be impressed by Sheldon’s character, in addition to his special way of dealing with people, that from childhood to adulthood The obsession and enthusiasm for science is unforgettable.

Even though no one in the family worked in science, he had an unexpected innate connection to science.

Sheldon attempted to isolate radioactive isotopes himself at the age of twelve, and even built his own small nuclear reactor, which caught the attention of agents, and eventually the material was confiscated. He also verified Newton’s first law with the help of a train toy, and began to try to make his own laser device in boarding school.

Of course Sheldon sees these things as something he should do as a child, rather than the food, drink and fun that his family cares about. The TV series also gave him a perfect ending at the end, and he got the promise. Bell Award.

Chemistry Lab in the Garage

You might think a storied life like Sheldon’s would only exist in drama, but if you know biologist Michael Young, Then you will find that life is often more exciting than drama. Except that the characters are not so dramatic, from childhood, to love, to the Nobel Prize, his experience is almost a replica of Sheldon.

Michael was born in Miami, his father was an aluminum ingot salesman, and his mother worked as a secretary in a law firm. It can be said that the family environment, like Shelton, did not have any scientific atmosphere.

Professor Michael Young was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2017 for his contributions to the field of rhythmic mechanisms (Photo: The Nobel Foundation. Photo: A. Mahmoud)

But this did not delay Michael’s interest in science since childhood, which seemed to be innate.

In the eyes of his sister and friends, he is a complete weirdo. When playing with model toys, others are playing with cars and planes, but Michael has to get the figures together, and Separated, or sitting in rows at a table, he thought it was a good way to study social behavior.

Coincidentally, Michael also likes to fiddle with chemical devices and experiments, and his parents set up a laboratory for him in a separate room, where Michael likes to mix Make various chemical reactions, such as making oxygen from potassium chlorate and then igniting it with a fire, or have some reaction that sprays liquid, leaving the floor full of tiny white spots that can’t be removed.

Parents had to move the lab to a garage for safety. Does this sound familiar to the scene in Little Sheldon?

In addition to experimenting, Michael disassembled the mower’s engine and built a small go-kart himself, “It’s going to go 30 miles per hour, but the brakes aren’t that great. .” This is Michael’s own assessment of the masterpiece.

When Michael was about thirteen years old, he received a book, The Miracle of Life on Earth, from his parents. In the book, he sees that the migration of some birds is controlled by some kind of internal clock, and they seem to use the position of the sun to determine their migration direction. As the sun’s position changes, the bird’s brain’s clock can also keep track of the time adjustment.

The physiological changes of the human day are also closely related to the circadian rhythm (Image source: Reference [5])

This is Michael’s first exposure to the biological clock. What he didn’t know was that, like the fetters of Sheldon’s chord theory, the biological clock would be inseparable from Michael’s life and help him to the Nobel Prize podium.

Cycle and Eternity

Drosophila is a model animal suitable for studying rhythms, but at the beginning of the Nobel Prize road, you need to answer a simple question: How to judge whether the fruit fly is awake or not ?

The answer is clear, if it’s flying around then it’s awake.

But the difficulty is keeping track of the state of the fruit fly. Humans are meant to sleep, and they can’t keep staring at whether fruit flies are flying. So Michael and his colleagues created a breadbox-sized tool with a sensor that records a signal as the fly swipes, allowing theDrosophila status was judged by signal frequency recording.

Thousands of genetically modified fruit flies have been housed in the toolbox since the kit came into existence.

Which gene to study specifically? When Michael was working as a graduate student, his teacher Burke Judd shook out a paper in front of him. It was a PNAS article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing the relationship between the circadian clock of the fruit fly. gene, which the authors named period (the “period” gene).

Michael in his youth (Photo credit: Rockefeller University, courtesy: Michael Young)

Michael was also very interested, and he experimentally determined that period was a completely new gene, located between two known genes. Miraculously, in his follow-up experiments, he obtained only period-deficient flies, which were normal except for the disappearance of the circadian rhythm.

This also shows that period is a central clockwork in the biological clock.

In subsequent years of research, Michael identified a transcriptional unit that was likely period. This is where the small box comes in handy, and many period-deficient flies are placed in it. Coming to the lab every morning, Michael first examines a note printed by the machine. According to the signal pattern on the note, the rhythm of these flies is completely disordered.

Then they transgenic the extracted transcription unit into the defective flies, and soon after, he collected the machine-printed paper again.

To be sure, Drosophila rhythms with the addition of the period transcription unit returned to normal. For the first time, the full picture and function of period has been shown in front of human beings.

periodGene activation will produce the PER protein, which will enter the nucleus to turn off the period gene after reaching the threshold, until a new cycle is generated (image source) : Reference [6])

After the period, Michael continued to search for more clock genes, and in thousands of tests, the timeless gene (the “eternal” gene) emerged , which shares many of the same behavioral characteristics as period.

What’s more, the proteins produced by the two genes can pair up, reaching a threshold and entering the nucleus to prevent the production of new proteins. As the paired proteins continue to be cleared, the switch turns back on, starting a new cycle.

This cycle becomes our internal clock, controlling the circadian rhythm that plays out in our bodies as the sun rises and sets.

Eventually Michael was awarded the award along with Jeffrey Hall and Michael Rosbash, who have also made outstanding contributions to the study of rhythm mechanisms. 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Small plot continuation

It is worth mentioning that Michael’s love life is similar to Sheldon’s, except that he and his wife Laurel Eckhardt met earlier .

Rewind the clock back to the 1970s, they first met in Burke’s class, first meeting Michael to say hi, Laurel didn’t at all Take care of him. It was only later that they introduced and became acquainted with each other in Burke’s office, and the two eventually became inseparable during graduate school.

Similar to Sheldon’s wife Amy, Laurel is now a biology professor, and they still collaborate on their work.

We may be disappointed to see what kind of kid Sheldon will bring up on TV.

In the 1990s, Michael and his wife and daughter were hiking in the countryside (Image source: Reference [1])

Michael may be able to help you make up for this regret. He and his wife raised two daughters, one with a Ph.D. in sociology, and the other became an excellent physician. It can be said that he inherited The academic talents of parents.

They built a house in New Mexico where the family would hike together, write papers, and explore the secrets of nature, just like Michael did when he was a kid.

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