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Harvard study finds fasting resets circadian clock

May 22, 2008

In a paper published May 22, 2008 in Science Magazine, "Differential Rescue of Light- and Food-Entrainable Circadian Rhythms", Patrick M. Fuller, PhD and colleagues describe a novel biological clock that is turned on in the brain when animals are fed only during the part of the day when they normally sleep.  This clock can turn the normal circadian rhythms upside down to allow animals to be fully awake the next day at the same time, waiting for the food.  By transplanting clock genes into the brain in mutant mice that lack normal clock function, they show that this new clock, in the dorsomedial hypothalamus, is sufficient to organize circadian rhythms driven by food.  If similar clocks are present in humans, this work suggests strategies for using food to time human biological rhythms.

Senior author Clifford B. Saper, PhD, MD was interviewed by Science Magazine about this paper, and describes the results of the study in the podcast downloadable from that website (see link below). The paper has generated a significant media attention, which has focused primarily on potential implications of the findings for the treatment of jet lag.

Related Links
More about this Science Magazine article: "Differential Rescue of Light- and Food-Entrainable Circadian Rhythms"
Science Podcast: Interview with Clifford Saper on light- and food-entrainable circadian rhythms
Reuters: "Starving may fend off jet lag"

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