As someone lucky enough to have family overseas, jet lag is a phenomenon I am all too familiar with; for travelers, it's an unavoidable -- and inescapable -- annoyance.
That is, until now.
Researchers from McGill and Concordia Universities in Montreal recently discovered a sort of biological reset button that, when activated, may help to eliminate not only jet lag, but a host of metabolic disturbances.
According to the researchers' findings, the body's internal clock is “reset” when a phosphate combines with a specific protein in the brain.
Exposure to light triggers the production of the protein, called the Period protein. Once it combines with a phosphate, the brain synchronizes the body's clock with environmental light and dark cycles.
To test this finding, researchers mutated the eIF4E Period protein in the brains of mice to study the animals' response to light and dark. The mutation made it impossible for the protein to attach to a phosphate.
The experiment proved that the mice with the protein mutation were unable to adapt to light/dark cycles as effectively as their non-mutated counterparts.
Thus, they concluded, the proper functioning of the Period protein is key in circadian regulation.
Lead author and postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Sonenberg's research group, Ruifeng Cao, explained,
While we can't predict a timeline for these findings to be translated into clinical use, our study opens a new window to manipulate the functions of the circadian clock.
Sadly, a cure for jet lag is still years away.
For now, get rid of jet lag with lots of caffeine (by day) and lots of Benedryl (by night) -- it does the trick, eventually.