Scientists have discovered the mechanism which governs how body clocks react to changes in the environment.
And the discovery, published in the journal Current Biology, could provide a solution for alleviating the effects of chronic shift work and jet-lag.
The University of Manchester team’s findings reveal that the enzyme casein kinase 1epsilon (CK1epsilon) controls how easily the body’s clockwork can be adjusted or reset by environmental cues such as light and temperature.
Internal biological timers (circadian clocks) are found in almost every species on the planet. In mammals including humans, circadian clocks are found in most cells and tissues of the body, and orchestrate daily rhythms in our physiology, including sleep/wake patterns and metabolism.
The research identifies a new mechanism through which our clocks respond to these light inputs. During the study, mice lacking CK1epsilon, a component of the clock, were able to shift to a new light-dark environment (much like the experience in shift work or long-haul air travel) much faster than normal.
Dr David Bechtold said: “We already know that modern society poses many challenges to our health and wellbeing – things that are viewed as commonplace, such as shift-work, sleep deprivation, and jet lag disrupt our body’s clocks. It is now becoming clear that clock disruption is increasing the incidence and severity of diseases including obesity and diabetes.”
With further clinical work, Dr Bechtold said we may be able to enhance the clock’s ability to deal with shift work and jet lag.
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