Uncoupling the clock
A biologist at Washington University in St. Louis is giving the VIP treatment to laboratory mice in hopes of unraveling more clues about our biological clock. VIP is not "very important person," but vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), a neuropeptide originally found in the gut, that is also made by a specialized group of neurons in the brain.
Erik Herzog, Ph.D., Washington University assistant professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, has discovered that VIP is needed by the brain’s biological clock to coordinate daily rhythms in behavior and physiology. Neurons in the biological clock, an area called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), keep 24-hour time and are normally synchronized as a well-oiled marching band coming onto the field at half time. Herzog and graduate student, Sara Aton, found that mice lacking the gene that makes VIP or lacking the receptor molecule for VIP suffer from internal de-synchrony. When they recorded the electrical activity of SCN neurons from these mice, they found that many had lost their beat while others were cycling but unable to synch to each other.
Tony Fitzpatrick | EurekAlert!
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