Posted by Grant N. on March 22, 2012
Research has uncovered a gene in our bodies that is responsible for waking us up, even when there are no alarm clocks buzzing or lights flashing. Scientists have understood how the majority of our wake/sleep cycle works for some time, but the missing link had always been what in the body reset the cycle each morning.
A circadian clock is a trait that every organism possesses and is basically the organism’s time-keeping system. It is affected by the environment, particularly light, and there are around 24 hours in each cycle. These clocks can and do affect nearly every part of an organism’s functions. The word circadian comes from Latin and means around-a day. Carolus Linnaeus actually used this idea in the 18th-century in a garden which could tell time because differing flowers would open each hour.
The circadian clock is known for controlling many things, metabolism is one of these characteristics. Every day the circadian clock speeds up in the morning and slows down at night. Scientists have made recent discoveries that reveal a specific gene that starts off the metabolism like each morning. The protein JARID1 has been found to start the metabolism hike each morning, which causes us to wake up. JARID1 actually causes the body to start production of another protein called PER, which regulates the organism’s circadian clock. Without JARID1, PER would not be produced, and the organism’s circadian clock would not function properly. While observing fruit flies which did not have JARID1, scientists saw that the flies would take frequent naps.
JARID1 basically serves as a triggering for the biochemical circuits that control the circadian clock. The circadian clock uses the level of PER proteins to indicate what time it is during the day. Scientists can now look into how JARID1 affects sleeping disorders and other associated diseases. New drugs could possibly affect this gene to reach desired results. People who work shifts that shake their circadian clock out of normal working times are affected by higher chances for several different diseases. Diabetes is tied to different metabolism cycles and is affected by the circadian clock. JARID1 sends signals that cause other drivers (CLOCK and BMAL1) in the body to turn back on each morning.
Overall, the genetic alarm clock is a very important factor in our day to day life and these new found proteins help explain how everything works together. Studies will continue to attempt to find whether these proteins could help with a number of sleep related diseases.
I chose all of these sources because they all are credible and have contributed valuable information to the scientific community. Medterms.com is a site created by doctors for the public. The-scientist.com is actually an online and paper magazine made especially for professional biologists and scientists. Biologynews.net uses a system of links that make it interconnected to other sites and provide credit for the actual biologist making these discoveries. Eurekalert.com is a site created by the AAAS, which is the world’s largest general scientific society.
Now scientists are asking other questions. Could these discoveries lead to cures for insomnia? Could it help solve sleep problems with aging adults? Could it help with cancer or diabetes?