New York, Oct 21 In a potential new treatment for jet lag, researchers have found that reducing oxygen level for a short period can help reset circadian clocks and help adapt eating, sleeping and running habits to the new time faster.
The experiment was conducted in mice and if confirmed in humans, the research could help inform how airlines moderate cabin air pressure.
In a paper published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the researchers showed that changing the concentration of oxygen in cells by just three per cent, twice a day, will synchronise mouse cells to a circadian rhythm.
"It was extremely exciting to see that even small changes in oxygen levels were sufficient to efficiently reset the circadian clock," said lead study author Gad Asher, a senior scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.
The researchers suspected that the protein HIF1? was the link between oxygen and the circadian clock because HIF1-alpha plays both a role in oxygen homeostasis in cells. They found that cells with low HIF1-alpha levels would not synchronise in response to oxygen variations.
The researchers further explored oxygen's effect on circadian rhythms with jetlag experiments.
Just like humans, mice are prone to jetlag after a sudden shift in daylight hours.
Mice were first left to eat, sleep and run on their wheels in air-controlled environments.
Altering oxygen levels alone did not change their circadian rhythms but once mice experienced a six-hour jump ahead in daylight hours, varying oxygen levels could help them adapt their eating, sleeping and running habits to the new time faster.
They also saw that a small drop in oxygen levels 12 hours before the six-hour daylight shift, or two hours afterwards, put the mice back on their circadian schedules faster and this too was dependent on HIF1-alpha levels.