‘VIP’ treatment for jet lag

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Posted on October 29, 2013

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, says a research team at Washington University in St. Louis.

 
VIP treatment for jet lag

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. Credit: Cristina Mazuski
Far from being catastrophic, the temporary loss of synchronization might actually 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 like 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 theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Resynching by jarring is familiar to everyone who has ever whacked a flickering analog TV to get it to synch 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 that the clock will reset to a new time. Such a treatment might help travelers, shift works and others who overtax the ability of the biological clock to entrain to environmental cues.

Read more at: MedicalXpress