If you are a frequent traveller and get bogged down by jet lag with every flight, help is on the way. Researchers have designed new molecules that can help modify the human biological clock to manage sleep-deprived travellers as well as improve treatment for sleep disorders.
Most living organisms, including humans, have a circadian rhythm or the 24-hour biological clock that regulates functions such as sleep-wake cycles, hormone secretion and metabolism.
This cycle often gets disrupted in situations like jet lag and sleep disorders like sleep apnea where long-term sleep loss ensues. This may affect cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and nervous systems with severe consequences including hypertension, obesity and mental health disorders, among others.
“We can make bioactive molecules that can control the circadian rhythm of animals and gain further insight into the circadian clock mechanism which will surely contribute to medical applications, food production and advances in clock research,” said Takashi Yoshimura, professor at Nagoya University’s Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) in Japan.
The team synthesised the activity of circadian rhythm-changing molecules and targeted a molecule that affects a specific circadian protein called CRY.
The findings showed that FBLX3 — a compound that readies protein CRY for degradation by cellular enzyme — competes with KL001 — a molecule that lengthens the circadian cycle — to preventing its degradation.
They prepared compounds that were similar to KL001, thus synthesising the first circadian shortening molecules that target the CRY protein.
The negative impacts of jet lag and shift work could be significantly reduced if it were possible to reset our 24-hour natural circadian or sleep/wake cycle with the new discovery, the authors noted.