Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School have moved one step closer to understanding the human biological clock.
Through their research, Professor Jay Dunlap, Research Associate Professor Jennifer Loros and Research Associate Susan Crosthwaite discovered the working of the mechanism that enables living organisms to synchronize their internal daily cycles with the earth’s rhythm of sunrise and sunset.
By studying a simple organism called Neurospora, the researchers found that short bursts of light cause an increase in the gene product that regulates the body’s internal pacemaker, resetting the organism’s clock according to the time of day.
While researchers have long known the effects of light and other time-cues on the behavior of plants and animals, this discovery is perhaps the first step in directly connecting the effects of light to a genetic component of the biological clock, according to a College press release.
Several molecular clock components are now known and some researchers believe that all the biological clock’s intricate workings will be mapped out within the next decade.
“This is a molecular model that may hold true for all organisms,” Loros said in a recent College press release. “It looks like this is the first part of the clock to respond to light information.”
The discovery was the cover story for a recent issue of the journal “Cell.”
There are many human illnesses, both physical and mental, that are linked to the disruption of the human biological clock.