Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

VIP Treatment for Jet Lag

04.11.2013
A brain chemical that desynchronizes the cells in the biological clock helps the clock adjust more quickly to abrupt shifts in daily light/dark schedules such as those that plague modern life.

A small molecule called VIP, known to synchronize time-keeping neurons in the brain’s biological clock, has the startling effect of desynchronizing them at higher dosages, said a research team at Washington University in St. Louis.


Cristina Mazuski

In this image of the master clock in the mouse brain, the nuclei of the clock cells are blue, and VIP — a molecule that allows the neurons in the clock to synchronize — is fluorescent green. New work shows that, at high doses, VIP desynchronizes the cells, allowing them to adjust rapidly to changes in the daily schedule. This may help relieve the malaise felt by many shift workers and by travelers who cross time zones.

Far from being catastrophic, the temporary loss of synchronization actually might be useful.

Neurons knocked for a loop by a burst of VIP are better able to re-synchronize to abrupt shifts in the light-dark cycle such as those that make jet lag or shift work so miserable. It takes tumbling cells only half as long as undisturbed cells to entrain to the new schedule, the scientists say in the Oct. 28 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Resynching by jarring is familiar to everyone who has whacked a flickering analog TV to get it to sync or hit the ceiling near a fluorescent light in the hope that its ballast starts buzzing.

The scientists hope to find a way to coax the brain into releasing its own stores of VIP or to find other ways to deliberately cause tumbling so the body’s clock will reset to a new time. Such a treatment might help travelers, shift works and others who overtax the biological clock’s ability to entrain to environmental cues.

The finding is the latest to emerge from the lab of Erik Herzog, PhD, who has studied the body’s time-keeping mechanisms for 13 years at Washington University in St. Louis. His focus is on understanding the clock, but because most of us live against our biological clocks and research shows this leads to health problems ranging from obesity to depression, his work is likely to have practical payoffs.

Timing is everything
The master circadian clock in mammals is a knot of 20,000 nerve cells roughly the size of a quarter of a grain of rice called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Each neuron in the SCN keeps time, but because they’re different cells, they have slightly different rhythms. Some run a bit fast and others a bit slow.

“They’re like a society where each cell has its own opinion on what time of day it is,” said Herzog, a profesor of biology in Arts & Sciences. “They need to agree on the time of day in order to coordinate daily rhythms in alertness and metabolism.”

The cells talk to one another through a molecule called VIP (vasoactive intestinal polypeptide), a small string of amino acids that they release and receive. It’s through VIP that cells tell one another what time they think it is, Herzog said. If you get rid of VIP or the receptor for VIP, the cells lose synchrony.

“We were trying to understand exactly when VIP is released and how it synchronized the cells,” Herzog said, “and Sungwon An, then a graduate student in my lab, discovered that when there was extra VIP around, the cells lost synchrony.

“That was really surprising for us,” he said. “We did a lot of experiments just to make sure the VIP we had bought wasn’t contaminated in some way.”

It turned out the effect was real. Above a critical level, the more VIP was released, the more desynchronized the cells became. “It’s almost as if at higher doses the cells become blind to the information from their neighbors,” Herzog said.

“Then we thought: ‘Well, if the cell rhythms are messed up and out of phase, the system may be more sensitive to environmental cues than it would be if all the cells were in sync.’” If it was more sensitive, it might be better able to adjust to the abrupt schedule shifts that characterize modern life.

They were encouraged in this line of thinking by a simulation of the SCN created by Linda Petzold, Kirsten Meeker, Rich Harang and Frank Doyle, all chemical engineers at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The numerical model predicted that increasing VIP would lead to phase tumbling (less synchrony) and accelerated entrainment.

Rapid entrainment to environmental cues is important, Herzog explained. The master clock has evolved to adjust to slow seasonal changes in light/dark schedules, but not to abrupt ones that are built into the fabric of modern life. Even the seemingly benign one-hour shift for daylight savings time increases the risk of fatal car crashes and of heart attacks.

“We were curious to see whether adding extra VIP would improve the ability of biological clocks to make big adjustments,” Herzog said. An, together with graduate student Cristina Mazuski and research scientist Daniel Granados-Fuentes, showed that a shot of VIP did in fact accelerate entrainment to a new light schedule.

“We found that in mice we could cut ‘jet lag’ in half by giving them a shot of VIP the day before we ‘flew them to a new time zone,’ by shifting their light schedule,” Herzog said.

“That’s really exciting, “ Herzog said. “This is the first demonstration that giving a bit more of a substance the brain already makes actually improves the way the circadian system functions. “

“We’re taking the system the brain uses to entrain to changes in the seasons and goosing it a bit so that it can adjust to bigger shifts in the light schedule,” he said.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to find a way to coax the brain into releasing its own stores of VIP or a light trigger or other signal that mimics the effects of VIP,” Herzog said.

Erik Herzog
Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences
(314) 935-8635
herzog@biology.wustl.edu

Professor Erik Herzog | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow
25.07.2017 | Rudolf-Virchow-Zentrum für Experimentelle Biomedizin der Universität Würzburg

nachricht Fungi that evolved to eat wood offer new biomass conversion tool
25.07.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather

25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds

25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow

25.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>