According to The Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese research team has discovered a “switch” that may someday be used to shift a person's circadian cycle, or internal clock, which determines behavioral rhythms such as sleep patterns.
A research team including members of Kyoto University announced the finding on June 12. The study result was published the same day in the British scientific journal Nature Communications.
The team said that it discovered for the first time that DNA arrangement plays a role as a switch to controlling a mice's internal clock. It is believed that humans also have the same mechanism.
“This is a vital step to understanding the mechanism of the biological clock,” said Masao Doi, a professor of Kyoto University specializing in chronobiology.
The finding could be a clue to unlocking the mechanism of a morning person and a night person or treating sleep disorders, the study said.
In terms of a biological clock, three U.S. researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2017 for their discovery of a gene related to the circadian clock.
The gene was found to cause increases and decreases of a protein over an approximately 24-hour cycle and create body temperature rhythms. But the detailed mechanism of the gene’s movement had not been determined.
Hitoshi Okamura, a specially appointed professor of Kyoto University, specializing in chronobiology, and other researchers changed the DNA arrangement of mice, which was located in the edge of the gene and whose role was not yet defined.
As a result, the mice were able to create protein, but became unable to decrease it. The biological clock of the mice was placed in disarray and its behavior became irregular.
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