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 Nerves control the body’s bacterial community
26.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Ageless ears? Elderly barn owls do not become hard of hearing
26.09.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nerves control the body’s bacterial community

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Four elements make 2-D optical platform

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan

26.09.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>