-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The way the human circadian
clock sets itself may explain why jet lag tends to affect people
more severely when they're flying west to east compared to the
other direction, a new animal study indicates.
The circadian clock, which regulates many body processes, has to
make regular adjustments to stay synchronized with the light-dark
cycle of where a person is and does this by delaying or advancing
its time in response to light.
Typically, these adjustments occur without notice. However, the
process is disrupted by sudden major changes in the light-dark
cycle, such as when a person takes a long flight.
Previous research found that delaying and advancing the
circadian clock occur in different pathways in an area of the brain
called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This new study found that the
molecular mechanisms in these pathways are significantly
"We have known for decades that, in humans and other organisms, advances are always much harder to achieve than delays. For example, compare jet lag going to Europe with that coming back," Horacio de la Iglesia, an associate professor of biology at the University of Washington, said in a university news release.
"One of the reasons may be that these two forms of resetting the clock involve different molecular mechanisms at the clock level," he suggested.
The findings from experiments with hamsters could help in
efforts to develop remedies to jet lag, according to the
The study was published online recently in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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