The Loh Down On Science

One-hundred genes promote jet lag, only one prevents it

Is jet leg all in our heads?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Most of us take up to one day for each hour of time-zone travel before we feel like ourselves again.  Why does adapting take so blankety-blank long?

Scientists at the University of Oxford recently looked for answers . . . via mice.

They simulated jet lag in the critters—not by flying them on mouse vacations, but by interrupting their day-night cycles with pulses of light.  What a letdown.  Afterward, the team found about 100 genes in mouse brain cells that switched on to retune the clock.  But they also found one gene—SIK1—that switched on to stop the retuning.  When the researchers blocked this gene, the mice adjusted their clocks much more quickly.

They think this “brake pedal gene” may stabilize clock tuning, to prevent fast fluctuations based on random changes in light.  Understanding this process may lead to drugs that help adjust to jet lag more easily.

As well as to those $12 snack boxes.  Not that I don’t love a honey-roasted jalapeno kettle chip.  Much.


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