Jet lag is a common problem among people travelling from one time zone to another. Workers on shifting schedules are also having a hard time making adjustments. Both situations impose disruptions in daily routine. But researchers from the Kyoto University claimed to have found the body’s ‘reset button.’
The research team was able to see results from groups of mice – one with and the other without vasopressin receptors – through a modified environment. By suppressing vasopressin, a hormone produced in the body, the mice without vasopressin receptors were able to adjust when put back in eight hours in a day. As for the normal mice, adjustment took six days. They also got the same result using a vasopressin drug. The team’s discovery was published in Science Magazine, the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Friday.
Vasopressin is mainly responsible for water retention in the body. Turned out, based on the research team from Kyoto University, the hormone also plays a significant role in keeping the body’s circadian rhythm or body clock. “Studies have shown that chronic jet lag and rotating shift work can increase an individual’s risk of developing hypertension, obesity, and other metabolic disorders,” the researchers concluded. “Our results identify vasopressin signaling as a possible therapeutic target for the management of circadian rhythm misalignment.”
According to the researchers, jet lag symptoms occur when there is temporal misalignment between internal circadian clock and external solar time. The body usually depends on light to identify time and schedule wake-sleep hours, though it is not always the case. The team noted finding that “circadian rhythms of behavior (locomotor activity), clock gene expression, and body temperature immediately reentrained to phase-shifted light-dark cycles in mice lacking vasopressin receptors.”
Body clock researcher Dr. Michael Hastings of the Medical Research Council was impressed with the study, calling it “very exciting” for their field of research. “There’s been many false dawns when it comes to a cure for jet lag, but I think this time they’re close to the money.” Besides jet lag, working in shifting schedules also imposes health problems to people involved, which apparently include health care providers. “The issue here in terms of public health is rotational shift work, the epidemiological evidence that we have now shows that if a worker has spent a working life doing rotational shift work they’re at higher risk of contracting certain forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome like diabetes.”