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Cutting Hormone Could Trip Jetlag

Mice insensitive to the hormone vasopressin recovered from a light-dark time shift much faster than did other rodents. Sophie Bushwick reports.

Jet lag. Jumping a few time zones causes problems with sleep and even digestion. But new research means we could be a step closer to preventing this voyager’s vexation.

The study centers on the hormone vasopressin, thought to have a role in maintaining our internal clock.

Researchers genetically engineered mice that do not respond to vasopressin. Both engineered and normal rodents lived in a set cycle of light and dark for 2 weeks. Then the researchers changed the light cycle by eight hours. And the vasopressin-insensitive mice recovered from their induced jet lag much more quickly than did their hormone-sensitive peers. The work is in the journal Science. [Yoshiaki Yamaguchi et al., Mice Genetically Deficient in Vasopressin V1a and V1b Receptors Are Resistant to Jet Lag]

Jet lag may seem like a minor annoyance. But for those who travel frequently or work unusual hours, it's a chronic problem that can increase the risk of hypertension and obesity.

You cannot simply knock out vasopressin signaling permanently—that would have negative effects on behavior and brain activity. But a drug that temporarily suppresses vasopressin to reduce jet lag may be a frequent flier’s dream.

—Sophie Bushwick

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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