Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UNC scientists pinpoint link between light signal and circadian rhythms

In a new paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Aziz Sancar, MD, PhD, the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the UNC School of Medicine, and his colleagues have taken an important step in understanding the underlying molecular signals that influence a broad array of biological processes ranging from the sleep-wake cycle to cancer growth and development.

Scientists who work in this field, known as chronobiology, have identified the genes that direct circadian rhythms in people, mice, fruit flies, fungi and several other organisms. However, the mechanisms by which those genes interact with light in the organism's environment have not been well understood.

Circadian rhythms are the physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow the earth's 24 hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment.

About 15 years ago, Sancar discovered a human protein called cryptochrome which acts as a core component of the molecular clock in mammals. The protein is also found in fruit flies, other insects, and plants.

"Cryptochrome 'resets' the circadian clock, but we were not sure how it worked," said Sancar, who is also a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Using fruit flies (Drosophilia melanogaster), the team purified cryptochrome and developed a biochemical test that shows when and how the protein transmits signals.

"We can now detect the protein at work. When we expose cryptochrome to blue light in fruit flies, a millisecond of light exposure has a half-life during which we can examine the mechanism in the laboratory," said Sancar. "We can follow the molecular signals after light exposure and have a reliable model to test various hypotheses about how light interacts with the circadian systems we know are so important to biological processes."

The research may be useful to scientists who study the circadian clock's relationship to sleep disorders, jet lag, cancer, bipolar disorder, depression and other diseases.

Sancar's research collaborators include Nuri Ozturk, PhD, Christopher Selby, PhD, and Yunus Annayev, BSc, of UNC-Chapel Hill's Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Donping Zhong, PhD from the Ohio State University.

The research was supported by the US National Institutes of Health.

Ellen de Graffenreid | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>