A new drug sucessfully developed by researchers can regulate our 24-hour body clocks, helping to reduce jet lag.
The study, conducted on rats, opens up the possibility of dealing with a range of human difficulties including some psychiatric disorders, jet lag and the health impacts of shift work.
"It can be really devastating to our brains and bodies when something happens to disrupt the natural rhythm of our body clocks," said Professor Andrew Loudon from the University of Manchester.
"We've discovered that we can control one of the key molecules involved in setting the speed at which the clock ticks and in doing so we can actually kick it into a new rhythm," he added.
Most living creatures and plants have an internal body timing system - called the circadian clock. And one of the enzymes in our bodies called casein kinase 1 drives this clock.
"Any change in casein kinase 1 activity, faster or slower, would adjust the 'ticking' from 24 hours to some other time period," Loudon said.
"Consider that if your body suddenly starts working on a 23 hour or 25 hour clock, many of your natural processes, such as sleeping and waking could soon become out of step with day and night," he added.
The team found a drug that slows casein kinase 1 down and used it in mice where the clock has stopped ticking all together. They were also able to re-establish the ticking of the clock by using the drug to inhibit the activity of casein kinase 1.
"Targeting the inhibition of casein kinase with small molecules may lead to the discovery of novel drugs for the treatment of bipolar depression and other circadian rhythm disorders. The burden of these disorders is enormous and new treatment options are needed," Dr Travis Wager said.
The study is published today (24 August) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.