SUFFERING from jet lag after a long-haul flight across numerous time zones could soon be a thing of the past after scientists claimed to have discovered a way of resetting the human body clock.
The breakthrough, by researchers at Manchester University, is also good news for shift workers.
The research team have discovered a new mechanism that governs how body clocks react to changes in the environment.
They claim their breakthrough could provide a solution for alleviating the effects of chronic shift work and jet lag.
The team’s findings, published in the journal Current Biology, reveal that the enzyme casein kinase 1epsilon (CK1epsilon) controls how easily the body’s clock can be adjusted or reset by environmental cues – such as light and temperature.
Internal biological timers – known as 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 patterns and metabolism.
Dr David Bechtold, who led the research team, said: “At the heart of these clocks are a complex set of molecules whose interaction provides robust and precise 24-hour timing.
“Importantly, our clocks are kept in synchrony with the environment by being responsive to light and dark information.”
He said the research identified a new mechanism through which our clocks respond to 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.
The researchers went on to show that drugs that inhibit CK1epsilon were able to speed up shift responses of normal mice, and, critically, that faster adaption to the new environment minimised metabolic disturbances caused by the time shift. Dr Bechtold said: “We already know that modern society poses many challenges to our health and well-being – 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.
“We are not genetically pre-disposed to quickly adapt to shift work or long-haul flights as our body clocks are built to resist such rapid changes.
“Unfortunately, we must deal with these issues today, and there is very clear evidence that disruption of our body clocks has real and negative consequences for our health.”
He added: “As this work progresses in clinical terms, we may be able to enhance the clock’s ability to deal with shift work, and, importantly, understand how maladaptation of the clock contributes to diseases such as diabetes and chronic inflammation.”