Using an automated screening technique developed by pharmaceutical companies to find new drugs, a team of researchers from UC San Diego and three other research institutions has discovered a molecule with the most potent effects ever seen on the biological clock.
Dubbed by the scientists "longdaysin," for its ability to dramatically slow down the biological clock, the new compound and the application of their screening method to the discovery of other clock-shifting chemicals could pave the way for a host of new drugs to treat severe sleep disorders or quickly reset the biological clocks of jet-lagged travelers who regularly travel across multiple time zones.
"Theoretically, longdaysin or a compound like it could be used to correct sleep disorders such as the genetic disorder familial advanced sleep syndrome, which is characterized by a clock that's running too fast," said Steve Kay, dean of UCSD's Division of Biological Sciences, who headed the research team, which published its findings in the December 14 issue of the journal PLoS Biology. "A compound that makes the clock slow down or speed up can also be used to phase-shift the clockin other words, to bump or reset the hands of the clock. This would help your body catch up when it is jet lagged or reset it to a normal day-night cycle when it has been thrown out of phase by shift work."
The researchers demonstrated the dramatic effects of longdaysin by lengthening the biological clocks of larval zebra fish by more than 10 hours.
"Longdaysin is the champion by far in how much it can move the clock," said Kay, whose laboratory at UCSD had found compounds in previous studies that could shift the biological clock by as much as several hours at most. "We were really surprised to find out how much you can slow down the biological clock with this compound and still have a clock that is running."
Biologists in Kay's laboratory and the nearby Genomics Institute of th
|Contact: Kim McDonald|
University of California - San Diego