No more jet lag thanks to body clock pill

Caroline Cassidy

Wouldn't it be great to fly around the world and never suffer the effects of jet lag or if people who work irregular night shifts could sort out their body clocks easily? These things may soon be possible as a new pill that can reset the body clock is being developed.

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Jet lag, known medically as desynchronosis, comes into effect when a person flies across a number of time zones, especially if heading east, and their circadian rhythms (or body clock) become out of synch. The symptoms can include headaches, fatigue and disorientation and can last for several days depending on the individual.

Dr Travis Wager, of Pfizer, said:"The burden of these disorders is enormous and new treatment options are needed."

In the past, scientists have recommended flying on an empty stomach and not eating at all while in the air in order to fool the body into adjusting to a new time zone.

But now a new pill is being researched by drug company Pfizer and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council that will focus on the behaviour of an enzyme called casein kinase.

Professor Andrew Loudon, of Manchester University, said: "We've discovered that we can control one of the key molecules involved in setting the speed at which the clock ticks and in doing so we can actually kick it into a new rhythm."

"We've shown that it's possible to use drugs to synchronise the body clock of a mouse and so it may also be possible to use similar drugs to treat a whole range of health problems associated with disruptions of circadian rhythms."

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported that the new drug, when tested on mice, was found to block the enzyme and allow the body clock to be reset.

And although the drug is still in the early stages of development, it could also be used to treat psychiatric disorders such as manic depression and could also be instrumental in tackling obesity.

Professor Janet Allen, of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: "The most effective way to develop drugs to treat a health problem is to understand the basic biology that underpins what is going on in our bodies.

"In this case, by understanding the basic biology of the enzyme controlling biological clocks, the research team have been able to identify potential drug-based solutions to a range of issues that affect many people's health and quality of life."

Would you be willing to pop a pill to prevent jet lag or do you think that natural techniques are preferable? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.