Boffins learn to adjust body clocks

Ideal for jetlag, bipolar, interstellar colonists


Good news today for sufferers from jet lag, bipolar depression, interstellar or interplanetary colonists and others plagued by disorders relating to the circadian rhythm - or body clock.

Top boffins have announced today that they have developed a method of restarting stopped body clocks and perhaps of regulating the rate at which they tick. In general, the body clock needs to "tick" once every 24 horus to match up with an Earthly day as experienced in the vicinity of any given meridian.

"It can be really devastating to our brains and bodies when something happens to disrupt the natural rhythm of our body clocks," says Professor Andrew Loudon of Manchester University.

"This can be as a result of disease or as a consequence of jet lag or frequent changing between day and night shifts at work.

"We've discovered that we can control one of the key molecules involved in setting the speed at which the clock ticks and in doing so we can actually kick it into a new rhythm."

It seems that "fine adjustment" of the body clock is done using a protein called casein kinase 1, and scientific meddling with this can allow some interesting results.

"The clock mechanism 'ticks' once per day," says Loudon. "If you imagine each 'tick' as represented by the rise and fall of a wave over a 24 hour period, as you go up there is an increase in the amount of proteins in the cell that are part of the clock mechanism, and as you go down, these substances are degraded and reduce again. What casein kinase 1 does is to facilitate the degradation part.

"So you can imagine that the faster casein kinase 1 works, the steeper the downward part of the wave and the faster the clock ticks - any change in casein kinase 1 activity, faster or slower, would adjust the 'ticking' from 24 hours to some other time period."

Not only could this be handy in the case of interstellar colonists of the future needing to live on a planet with a different day length, the same method can be used to sort out people here on Earth whose body clocks are out of whack or even stopped altogether.

Loudon and his colleagues have tested this by finding some mice whose body clocks had stopped altogether. Using casein kinase 1 regulation, the boffins managed to restart the unfortunate murines' biological time tick.

"We've shown that it's possible to use drugs to synchronise the body clock of a mouse," enthuses the prof.

"It may also be possible to use similar drugs to treat a whole range of health problems associated with disruptions of circadian rhythms. This might include some psychiatric diseases and certain circadian sleep disorders. It could also help people cope with jet lag and the impact of shift work."

Full details of the research are available here for subscribers to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ®


Other stories you might like

  • It's the flu season – FluBot, that is: Surge of info-stealing Android malware detected

    And a bunch of bank-account-raiding trojans also identified

    FluBot, a family of Android malware, is circulating again via SMS messaging, according to authorities in Finland.

    The Nordic country's National Cyber Security Center (NCSC-FI) lately warned that scam messages written in Finnish are being sent in the hope that recipients will click the included link to a website that requests permission to install an application that's malicious.

    "The messages are written in Finnish," the NCSC-FI explained. "They are written without Scandinavian letters (å, ä and ö) and include, for example, the characters +, /, &, % and @ in illogical places in the text to make it more difficult for telecommunications operators to filter the messages. The theme of the text may be that the recipient has received a voicemail message or a message from their mobile operator."

    Continue reading
  • AsmREPL: Wing your way through x86-64 assembly language

    Assemblers unite

    Ruby developer and internet japester Aaron Patterson has published a REPL for 64-bit x86 assembly language, enabling interactive coding in the lowest-level language of all.

    REPL stands for "read-evaluate-print loop", and REPLs were first seen in Lisp development environments such as Lisp Machines. They allow incremental development: programmers can write code on the fly, entering expressions or blocks of code, having them evaluated – executed – immediately, and the results printed out. This was viable because of the way Lisp blurred the lines between interpreted and compiled languages; these days, they're a standard feature of most scripting languages.

    Patterson has previously offered ground-breaking developer productivity enhancements such as an analogue terminal bell and performance-enhancing firmware for the Stack Overflow keyboard. This only has Ctrl, C, and V keys for extra-easy copy-pasting, but Patterson's firmware removes the tedious need to hold control.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft adds Buy Now, Pay Later financing option to Edge – and everyone hates it

    There's always Use Another Browser

    As the festive season approaches, Microsoft has decided to add "Buy Now, Pay Later" financing options to its Edge browser in the US.

    The feature turned up in recent weeks, first in beta and canary before it was made available "by default" to all users of Microsoft Edge version 96.

    The Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) option pops up at the browser level (rather than on checkout at an ecommerce site) and permits users to split any purchase between $35 and $1,000 made via Edge into four instalments spread over six weeks.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021