A cure for jetlag? Scientists discover body clock 'reset button'

The findings could reduce the symptoms of jet lag after travelling through different time zones

Heather Saul
Friday 04 October 2013 12:02 BST

Scientists have discovered the body clock 'reset button', taking them one step closer to tweaking the clock in order to make jet lag and shift work less painful.

The findings could reduce the symptoms of travelling through different time zones and working unsociable hours, which often makes people either tired or unable to sleep. Results from the study, published in journal Science, suggest the newly-found button could be used to switch the master clock to a new time zone, for example from London to Beijing, in just one day.

A team based at Kyoto University in Japan discovered the 'reset button' in the brain. There are clocks located throughout the body but the master clock is found within the brain, where it works to keep the body in tune with the world around us, creating fatigue at night and alertness during daylight.

The clock uses light to monitor time, but adjusts slowly. For every time zone travelled, it takes the body approximately a full day to catch up, according to the BBC.

Shift work or long haul flights disrupt sleep and hunger patterns, as the body clock falls out of tune with the rising and setting of the sun.

The master 'clock' is comprised of a group of about 10,000 brain cells that communicate with each other in order to control the time. The team of scientists discovered that by interfering with the vasopressin receptors - brain cell 'ears' that allow them to talk to each other - allows the clock to move more rapidly.

The team, led by Yoshiaki Yamaguchi, examined genetically modified mice with no vasopressin receptors and found they were able to re-adjust clocks that have been put back eight days within one day.

Normal mice took six days to adjust and eight days if their clock was put forward eight hours. Mice without vasopressin receptors again managed to re-adjust their clocks more rapidly and adjusted within two days.

Similar results were achieved when scientists injected normal mice with a drug, and they were able to adjust their body clock quickly.

The study's authors concluded: "Jet lag is a blessing to circadian biologists because the disruption of mental and physical well-being immediately highlights the importance of our internal “body clock.” It is also a curse because jet lag has so far eluded attempts at a cure.

"Mice lacking receptors for the neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP) are resistant to jet lag, providing new hope of overcoming this modern malaise. Not only may this help us recover from symptoms of jet lag, but it should also help unravel the neural circuit that sets the tempo to our lives."

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