A mechanism that keeps the circadian clock in sync has been finally found. Scientists say that this could ultimately help in curing jetlag and other related diseases.
Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have discovered how two genes, Period and Cryptochrome, which keeps the circadian clocks in all human cells in time and in proper rhythm with the 24-hour day, as well as the seasons.
The study has implications for the development of drugs for various diseases such as cancers and diabetes, as well as conditions such as metabolic syndrome, insomnia, seasonal affective disorder, obesity, and even jetlag.
In all human cells, there are four genes, Cryptochrome, Period, CLOCK, and BMAL1, which work in unison to control the cyclical changes in human physiology, such as blood pressure, body temperature, and rest-sleep cycles. The way in which these genes control physiology helps prepare people for the day. This was called the circadian clock.
When people try to fast-forward or rewind the natural 24-hour day, such as when they fly seven time zones away, their circadian clocks don't let them off easy; the genes and proteins need time to adjust. Jetlag would be the feeling of people's cells "realigning" to their new environment and the new starting point of a solar day.
Aziz Sancar, MD, said that now they could screen for drugs that target these proteins and they know to expect different outcomes and why they get those outcomes.
The study is published in the journal Genes and Development.