The natural and Eco-friendly Medicine Nobel

to a babygirl, Aurora


From the press release of the Nobel Academy:

Life on Earth is adapted to the rotation of our planet. For many years we have known that living organisms, including humans, have an internal, biological clock that helps them anticipate and adapt to the regular rhythm of the day. But how does this clock actually work? Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings. Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions”.

The Medicine Nobel prize has been assigned to Jeffrey C. Hall, Micheal Rosbash and Michael W. Young (which worked or working together at the Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachussetts and at the Rockefeller University) because they be able to explain the circadian night-day rhythm and clarify its inner functions. The Nobel prize has shown that the gene, called period, that control the regular biological daily rhythm, codify for a protein – PER that accumulates itself into the cell during the night, and that it’s depleted during the day. Later, they find out other protein-based elements of this system, revealing the mechanism that manages the self-sufficient clock inside the cell. The complexity of our biological clock is managed by two other genes, the Timeless (TIM) and the DoubleTime (DBT) genes that modulate the 24 hours regulation of the day-night rhythm. The study of the “circadian” rhythms proved how fundamental synchronization is for our well-being.

Why discuss this Nobel of medicine into a website and a journal focused narrative medicine and humanization of care? Because, in my opinion, this is one of the most caring Nobel about human, animal and vegetal physiology of earth, maybe more, of the entire cosmos.

If we read the first sentences of the “Nobel Academy press release”, we find the words “rotation of our planet”: so we, as living being, are integrated into the rotation movement, that Earth’s axis of “our” planet that rotate on itself. They could write just “of the planet”: they add that possessive adjective, “our”, making all the races living on this planet responsible and sharing this soil. At the end of the first paragraph is written biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions”. Opps, I forgot, the word Earth is always written in capital letter, like to give an absolute sense of majestic, the only word written in capital letter, apart from the scientists’ names, inside the sentences. There is also that “sibylline” – “the Earth’s revolutions”. The revolution movement of Earth is that one carried out in a solar year, 365 days, when Earth by continuing the rotation on itself, pacing the circadian rhythm, realize its orbit around the sun, creating thus the cycle of the seasons. (Writing this consideration in Italian is different since Sun is of a male gender and Earth is feminine).  Therefore, the topic of light and dark assume a different dimension, that touch of the rhythm of the seasonal nature, where there are long days with more light and shorter nights and viceversa, short days with longer nights. The Aurora Borealis and the long Austral night. And viceversa.

I don’t believe that the words of a press release are chosen without a reason, but the moving from the rotation to the revolution movements (How many? Of which years? Ages? Past, Present and Future?) open to broaden breath horizons and to give “stellar” dynamism. That little mosquito flying around the fruit used to isolate the period gene, that Drosophila melanogaster we all studied at the high-school, here elevates in a stellar eco-system.

This Nobel prize has the power to remember us that our micro-cosmos is inside a macro-cosmos, that exists an interdependence between light, darkness, life and stars’ movement. It reminds us the sense of responsibility and of belonging to our planet. Isn’t enough? Reminds us also that we are human-beings into a big clock: if we change too much the rules of Nature, like reducing the hours of sleep to be more “performative and productive, this involve a reduced harmonization with the “celestial movement” and could damage our sense of “human-being”. Richard Wiseman is analysing the sleep since decades and has written:

Two-thirds of us are sleep-deprived. And this isn’t just an inconvenience, making us foggy and caffeine-dependent. Lack of sleep brings with it a host of problems – an increased risk of heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and an increased risk of weight gain. You might well wonder just why so many of us are so bad at sleeping? And since the humble snooze can protect our physical and emotional health, can make us feel energetic and confident and creative, why the majority of us consistently don’t get enough sleep?”.

Wisemann writes that before the invention of the electric lights people used to sleep ten hours, an appropriate time to feel rested and to face better the next day. Nowadays, we can take pills of melatonin to overtake the jet lag, that stimulates the production of PER proteins, that we will need for the next day, but only for a specific period, to protect our organism. However, beyond the occasional trips, the light led in our bedrooms, in our bathrooms at night, and moreover the city lights, are all factors that damage our melatonin’s production and so for PER – I could add further than the period protein, PER as PerFormative, (English term also nowadays a trend in the people’s productive efficacy evaluation).

Even with exceptions – artists who creates by night with the moonlight, or women that breastfeed helped by oxytocin, – also dreams, continues Wisemann, are useful to recapture the logic path interrupted during the day, and open widely the doors of creativity and possible awareness’ solutions and expansions towards situations that, on the daylight seem hard to solve. I believe that everyone of us had solution ideas in the middle of the night, then, turning on the other side of the bed, restarts to sleep, softly cradled by the sweet rotation of our planet.

For those who read the Odyssey, one of the trial of Odysseus was the land of the Holy Cows of Helios, the sun’s God. They were sacred, untouchable, inedible. Less known, the number of these cows: seven herds each composed by 50 cows. 350 holy animals dedicated to the Sun. Among the expressed theories, one of the most likely is that this number was a symbol of the calendar’s days (in the past,  around350). Therefore, to kill one or more days was a sacrilegious action, changing the natural rhythm of rotation and revolution of Earth towards the Sun.

Wonderful this Nobel! It reminds us that we aren’t alone, that also plants sleep at night, and that for anyone of us a Sunrise grows to announce the Dawn and then the Day that will come, the Sunset and the Evening before Night.

Wonderful this Nobel! It reminds us that humanization means the taking back the time of nine-ten hours of sleep, to be sharper and more aware during the day and switching off cell phones, TV, and led lights. This to prevent chronic diseases and unhappiness.

Wonderful this Nobel! It reminds us that accommodation systems exist – like the Timeless gene that works also in the dark, in a situation of light deprivation, just for limited time. However, the emergency that for months the light could disappear on our planet was faced in our biological evolution.

Wonderful this Nobel! It reminds us a cosmological system and the final part of the Divine Comedy, when Dante in heaven, lost his imagination before the amazing show of Love like Traction power:

Here powers failed my high imagination:         

But by now my desire and will were turned,         

Like a balanced wheel rotated evenly,   

By the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.


Written by

Epidemiologist and counselor – 30 years of professional life in health care. Classic humanistic background, including the study of Latin and ancient Greek, followed by scientific academic studies, chemistry and pharmacology. First years of career, in private international environment. I worked in medical research, moved to health care organization, getting academic specialization in Epidemiology. Later, in consultancy and health care education. Counselor with transactional analysis orientation. Currently, director of Innovation in Health Care Area of Fondazione ISTUD, an independent not for profit Italian Business School with an humanistic approach acknowledged by the Italian Ministry of Researech.. Active member of the board of Italian Society of Narrative Medicine, tenured professor of Narrative Medicine at Hunimed, Milan, and in 2016, referee for World Health Organization for “Narrative Method in Public Health.” Writer of the book; “Narrative medicine: Bridging the gap between Evidence Based care and Medical Humanities,” edited with Springer and of international publications on narrative medicine in scientific journals. Last book “The Languages of care in narrative medicine: words, space and sounds in the healthcare ecosystem”. Lecturer in different international contexts from Academy to Public and Private Foundations.

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