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'Biological clock' could be a key to better health, longer life
Date:3/1/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. If you aren't getting a good, consistent and regular night's sleep, a new study suggests it could reduce your ability to handle oxidative stress, cause impacts to your health, increase motor and neurological deterioration, speed aging and ultimately cut short your life.

That is, if your "biological clock" genes work the same way as those of a fruit fly. And they probably do.

In research just published in the journal Aging, scientists from Oregon State University outline for the first time how a key gene that helps control circadian rhythms can improve the health of aging fruit flies if it is intact, but can result in significant health impacts, up to and including earlier death, if it is absent.

Of particular interest, the research found, was that young fruit flies without this gene were able to handle some stress, but middle-aged and older flies were not.

"We're beginning to identify some of the underlying mechanisms that may help explain why organisms age," said Natraj Krishnan, a research associate in the OSU Department of Zoology. "This study suggests that young individuals may be able to handle certain stresses, but the same insults at an older age cause genetic damage and appear to lead to health problems and earlier death. And it's linked to biological clocks."

It's not completely clear how closely the effects of genetic damage in fruit flies correlate to humans and other animals, Krishnan said, but "the genes themselves, their molecular mechanisms and function is essentially the same, conserved through many millions of years of evolution." The "period" gene in fruit flies, for instance, is also found and expressed in almost every cell in the human body.

This research examined that gene, which is one of four primary genes that help control the biological clock in many animals the rhythms that are related to the cycle of day and night, and can be disrupted by anything from inadequate
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Contact: Natraj Krishnan
krishnan@science.oregonstate.edu
541-737-5513
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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