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New Animal Study Might Explain Jet Lag Differences

New Animal Study Might Explain Jet Lag Differences

10/21/11

FRIDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The way the human circadian clock sets itself may explain why jet lag tends to affect people more severely when they're flying west to east compared to the other direction, a new animal study indicates.

The circadian clock, which regulates many body processes, has to make regular adjustments to stay synchronized with the light-dark cycle of where a person is and does this by delaying or advancing its time in response to light.

Typically, these adjustments occur without notice. However, the process is disrupted by sudden major changes in the light-dark cycle, such as when a person takes a long flight.

Previous research found that delaying and advancing the circadian clock occur in different pathways in an area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This new study found that the molecular mechanisms in these pathways are significantly different.

"We have known for decades that, in humans and other organisms, advances are always much harder to achieve than delays. For example, compare jet lag going to Europe with that coming back," Horacio de la Iglesia, an associate professor of biology at the University of Washington, said in a university news release.

"One of the reasons may be that these two forms of resetting the clock involve different molecular mechanisms at the clock level," he suggested.

The findings from experiments with hamsters could help in efforts to develop remedies to jet lag, according to the researchers.

The study was published online recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about jet lag.

Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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