New research into the body’s internal ‘clock’, the circadian rhythm that determines sleep cycles and metabolism, has suggested that it may be possible to manipulate the process with a drug, opening up a potential medical treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Tests on mice that altered levels of the enzyme casein kinase 1 were honed to the extent that the internal sleep and wake cycle could be ‘reset’ to within an hour of the biologists’ choosing. If the process could be replicated in humans it could be used to combat a whole host of sleep problems related to the circadian rhythm.
“Up until now we haven’t had any drug that plays with the core clock itself. We’ve shown that it’s possible to use drugs to synchronise the body clock of a mouse and so it may also be possible to use similar drugs to treat a whole range of health problems associated with disruptions of circadian rhythms,” said researcher Prof. Andrew Loudon from Manchester University, who co-operated with Dr. Mick Hastings from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and scientists from Pfizer on the study. “This might include some psychiatric diseases and certain circadian sleep disorders.”
The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.