Stanford Medicine magazine reports on intersection of time, health

The spring issue features a theme package on the clocks that rule our bodies, as well as an excerpt from a new biography of Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Paul Berg, PhD, and a report on the high-risk birth of a set of triplets.

Dan Winters

Your body keeps time. Cells divide like clockwork. Cycles like sleeping and waking stay on track — for the most part, at least. So how does that work? And how can this knowledge improve our health?

You’ll find answers in the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine in the special report “Life time: The long and short of it,” which features stories about time and health.

“All these cycles are driven by clocks,” said James Ferrell, MD, PhD, in an article about whether it’s possible to “hack” our biological clocks. “There’s almost nothing in common between each clock when it comes to the exact genes and proteins involved. But at a fundamental level each type of circuit is the same.”

Ferrell, a professor of chemical and systems biology and of biochemistry at Stanford, added, “The hope is that if we understand the cell cycle better, we can design more effective therapies for cancer.”

Research on the sleep cycle described in the article seeks to find ways to treat narcolepsy, ease jetlag and reverse learning disabilities.

Also in the issue:

  • A Q&A with bestselling author and physician Abraham Verghese, MD, on the timeless rituals of medicine. (The digital edition includes audio of an interview with Verghese.)
  • A blow-by-blow account of the air-ambulance rescue of an injured toddler.
  • A report on the limits of life spans.
  • An essay about the nature of time from a young neurosurgeon who is now living with an advanced form of lung cancer. (The digital edition includes audio of an interview with the surgeon, Paul Kalanithi, MD, and a video featuring him.)

The issue also includes a story about the danger-fraught birth of an unusual set of triplets and an excerpt from the new biography of Nobel Prize-winning Stanford biochemist Paul Berg, PhD, describing the sticky situation he found himself in graduate school.

The magazine is available online at Print copies are being sent to subscribers. Others can request a copy by calling (650) 723-6911 or by sending an email to

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