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Surprising Science

These Are Your Body’s Molecules On Jet Lag

Oxford University researchers have discovered a protein that prevents genes from adapting to differing levels of light. Suppressing this protein in mice caused their body clocks to adjust much faster.

What’s the Latest Development?

According to researchers at Oxford University, the reason why some of us take so long to recover from the effects of jet lag is based in our very molecules. In studies done on mice, the team discovered that while a large number of genes were activated in response to light, a protein called SIK1 went to work deactivating them again, basically “acting as a brake” on the mice’s master body clocks. Suppressing the effects of SIK1 allowed the mice to respond much more quickly to changes in light. According to team member Russell Foster, “We reduced levels by 50-60%…[and] the mice would actually advance their clock six hours within a day [rather than taking six days for untreated mice].”

What’s the Big Idea?

For some people the fatigue that comes with jet lag can last for days, which is why the discovery of SIK1’s role in the process is encouraging, says body clock specialist Akhilesh Reddy: “[It’s] a very drugable target and I would suspect there are lots of potential drugs already developed…We have drugs which can make the clock shorter or longer, what we need is to shift it to a new time zone and that is what they have done.” Such drugs could also help patients with mental health disorders that are believed to be linked to the body clock.

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Read it at BBC News


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