Fatigue Research/studies Shift work Transportation

New discovery could lead to shift-work drug: study

South Bend, IN – A newly identified protein could lead to the development of drugs to help people better cope with rotational shift work and jet lag, a University of Notre Dame study suggests.

Rotational shift work or traveling to a different time zone can disrupt the body’s internal clock, leading to poor health. Fatigue, indigestion and sleep disturbance all can occur while the body adjusts its circadian rhythm to the new schedule, a process that can take up to a day for every hour the internal clock is shifted, according to a Notre Dame press release.

Working collaboratively with other scientists, Notre Dame researchers identified a gene and its corresponding protein that limits the ability of the body’s internal clock to adjust to changes in a light-dark cycle. In an experiment with mice, the animals whose protein was blocked were able to adjust faster to changes in the light-dark cycle.

The protein could become a target for a future drug to help people better adjust their circadian rhythms during rotational shift work or time zone changes, the release states.

The study was published in August in the journal Cell.