Scientists have discovered a hitherto unknown "cog" in the sleep-controlling human body clock which may help people avoid jet lag often experienced by international travelers.
It is believed that the body clock governs the circadian rhythms of the body and connects the cycles of metabolism and behaviour to the cycle of day and night.
AdvertisementIt often gets disrupted by old age, disease, international travel and shift work and such disturbance not only causes problems sleeping and eating, but also leads to serious illness.
And now, researchers have identified a molecule, known as c-AMP, a common signalling molecule, which plays a major role in keeping the body clock "rhythms" going.
This molecule is located in the hypothalamus of the brain, which harbours cells that keeps the body clock in alignment with the other major organs including the heart, lungs and liver.
Led by Dr Michael Hastings, at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, the study found that the body clock keeps ticking owing to the daily activation of this molecule, or "cog" in tandem with the body's genes and proteins.
When the circadian day starts, genes are switched on which then produce proteins, which in turn go on to switch off the same genes at the end of the day. These proteins are then broken down over the circadian night and the process continues again beginning the next morning.
The scientists have claimed that this knowledge of the mechanism of circadian clock may pave the way for new treatments for jet leg and other sleep disorders, in which the body clock is effectively "reset".
According to Hastings, disruption of the body clock through "shift work, old age and neurological disease" was a "significant and growing cause of chronic illness".
"If we can identify ways to control the clockwork we may be able to learn how to reset it when it goes wrong. We have found that daily activation of c-AMP signals help to sustain progression of the body clock's rhythm. This is a new way of thinking about how the body clock ticks, the involvement of c-AMP shows that the control mechanism extends into areas of the cell we weren't aware of it working in before," The Telegraph quoted him, as saying.
He added: "This gives us a new way to control the body clock in all of our organs and tissues.''
And now, MRC Technology, the technology arm of the Medical Research Council, has applied for a patent application for looking after the pharmacological methods of manipulating the molecule.
Also, the company also believes that drugs developed using these methods could may have implications in developing new treatments for genetic sleep disorders.
Dr Nicole Mathon, the business manager at MRC Technology, said: "We are hoping that industry will pick up on this interesting discovery so that we can foster a collaboration to start a drug discovery programme."
The study was published in the journal Science.