Scientists on verge of cure for jet-lag after finding brain's 'reset button'
Published 09/10/2013 | 13:30
Scientists in Japan believe they have a cure for jet-lag after discovering the brain's 'reset button'
Scientists at Kyoto University have edged closer to a cure for jet lag by identifying the "reset button" in the body clock inside the brain.
In a paper published in the journal Science, the researchers demonstrated that by disrupting the information shared between the approximately 10,000 brain cells that make up the body clock and control the physical responses to the passage of time, the leap to a new time zone can be completed in a matter of hours instead of days.
Scientists estimate that it takes the average person one day to adjust to every one-hour change in time zone.
The tests have only been carried out on mice so far, Dr Hitoshi Okamura told The Telegraph, but he is optimistic the challenges to applying the discovery to the circadian rhythm in humans can be overcome.
"Usually it is very hard for mice to overcome the effects of jet lag but we were able to make them recover very quickly indeed," he said. "We need to do further research to overcome some problems, on toxicity concerns surrounding the vasopressin receptors and so on, but it will be possible to apply this to humans."
Vasopressin receptors play an important part in kidney functions in humans, he said, so any new medicine to stave off jet lag will need to undergo thorough testing to ensure it has no affect on other organs of the body.
The team headed by Dr Okamura - who has been searching for a cure for jet lag for 30 years - found that by interfering with the body clock's vasopressin receptors, which serve as the ears of a brain cell through which it can stay in touch with the surrounding cells, the body clock can move more rapidly.
Genetically modified mice without vasopressin receptors were able to adjust to an eight-hour time difference within a single day, a process that took normal mice six days to complete.
"Studies have shown that chronic jet lag and rotating shift work can increase an individual's risk of developing hypertension, obesity, and other metabolic disorders," the scientists said in their conclusion.
"Our results identify vasopressin signalling as a possible therapeutic target for the management of circadian rhythm misalignment."