Drug could end the misery of travelling across time zones
Although we love travelling to far-flung destinations and distant lands, we’re less keen on arriving minus a night’s sleep and deflated by the relentless pinpricks of jet lag’s mirthless embrace.
Thankfully that could soon be a thing of the past, as scientists have developed a pill that effectively resets our body clocks, and could render jet lag a flaccid travel irrelevance.
Humans are little more than bags of meat and gore, so we’re designed to sleep at night and be wakeful during the daylight hours. Upsetting this rhythm, as jet lag so commonly does, can lead to stress, irritation, and gap year ruination, and in more extreme cases health issues like heart disease and cancer. We can all agree that jetlag is a dick.
The new drug combats jet lag by synchronising blood cells in your body to fool it into believing that night is day and day is night.
Let’s get out of our depth in warm, milky neuroscience for a moment. White blood cells contain tiny biological clocks that are controlled by a switch within the brain, which synchronises them to control the body’s reaction to day and night. These new tablets, devised by scientists at Canada’s McGill University and Douglas Mental Health University, use a steroid-based compound called glucocorticoid to override this switch and reset it.
“Animal studies have shown that our central clock (in the brain) sends signals to the clocks in our other organs,” sais Nicolas Cermakian, co-author of the report submitted to the Journal of FASEB. “Glucocorticoids appear to play a central role in transmitting these signals. We studied the rhythmic expression of clock genes in white blood cells to see how they adjusted in response to glucocorticoids.”
Unfortunately the treatment isn’t yet ready for general use, but it hopefully opens the door to new treatments that spell the end of jet lag’s reign of travel tyranny.