Friday Evening Lecture Series – Glassman Lecture – “Biological Time Travels: The Story of Circadian Rhythms”

Date(s) - 06/28/2013
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Lillie Auditorium

Friday Evening Lecture SeriesGlassman Lecture – “Biological Time Travels: The Story of Circadian Rhythms”
Michael Rosbash, Brandeis University; Howard Hughes Medical Institute
June 28, 2013, 8:00 PM, Lillie Auditorium

Introduction by Dr. Joan Ruderman, President and Director, MBL

Michael RosbashLecture Abstract:
Circadian rhythms are almost universal in eukaryotic organisms. Although circa 24 hour timekeepers (circadian = about a day) have been known for a long time, their origin and mechanism were complete mysteries. What is the quartz crystal that keeps time?  Beginning with genetic studies on the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster in the mid-80s and early 90s, research has shown that the clock uses specific transcription factors arranged in a small number of transcriptional feedback loops to keep time and to govern downstream biological processes. Because this mechanism and the proteins that make up the clock are conserved between flies and humans, we also know that this biological machine must have existed at least 550 million years ago within the last common ancestor of flies and humans. Lastly and most remarkably, a huge fraction of human biology is under clock control. Perhaps 50% or more of the human transcriptome undergoes circadian oscillations. Metabolism, physiology and behavior – virtually every aspect of biology – undergo circadian oscillations and are governed by the clock. Not surprisingly therefore, circadian dysfunction or dysregulation, due to shift work for example, is associated with major problems.


Dr. Michael Rosbash is the Peter Gruber Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Biology at Brandeis University, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Dr. Rosbash’s research has been instrumental in revealing the molecular basis of circadian rhythms, the built-in biological clock that regulates sleep and wakefulness, activity and rest, hormone levels, body temperature, and other functions.

Using the fruit fly Drosophila, he and his colleagues Drs. Jeffrey Hall and Michael Young identified genes and proteins involved in regulating the clock and proposed a mechanism of how the clock works. Dr. Rosbash’s discoveries apply to humans and other mammals, and they could ultimately lead to the development of drugs to treat insomnia, jet lag, and other sleep disorders.

Dr. Rosbash has been a professor at Brandeis University for 38 years.  Since 1989, he has also been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and an adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular Biology, at The Massachusetts General Hospital.  He received a B.S. from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Rosbash is the recipient of several prizes and awards, most recently The Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine (2013) and the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences (2013).  Other awards include The Massry Prize (2012), Canada Gairdner International Award (2012), the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for Outstanding Basic Research (2011), and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation Neuroscience Prize (2009).  Dr. Rosbash is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

About the Glassman Lecture:
The Glassman Lecture is held in honor of the late Harold N. Glassman who left a generous bequest to the MBL which resulted in the establishment of the Harold N. Glassman fund, the income from which is used to support an annual Friday Evening Lecture on an important topic in biological research.

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