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Blocking a hormone helps mice beat lengthy jet lag

Brain molecule steadies the beat of circadian clock, while stopping it allows for quick reset

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2:02pm, October 3, 2013

A molecular timekeeper called vasopressin steadies the rhythm of the body’s daily cycles and may hamper acclimatization to new time zones. Mice rapidly recover from a laboratory form of jet lag when researchers block the hormone in the brain, a new study shows.

Fluctuations in physiology and behavior move to the beat of the circadian clock. Crossing time zones or working night shifts throws the body out of sync, leading to sleep and digestive problems, says neuroscientist Hitoshi Okamura of Kyoto University, who led the study. “When we face this situation,” he says, “we are forced to suffer.”

The tick-tocks of the mammalian circadian clock emanate from a tiny cluster of cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, located deep in the brain. Researchers have long known that the suprachiasmatic nucleus sets the clock, but which cells and molecules orchestrate its action have remained unclear.

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