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Drug that could make jet lag history

Now frequent flyers can heave a sigh of relief — with researchers having successfully tested a new drug that can reset and restart the natural 24-hour body clock and help ease jet lag.

The study, conducted on rats, opens up the possibility of dealing with a range of human difficulties including some psychiatric disorders, jet lag and the health impacts of shift work.

“It can be really devastating to our brains and bodies when something happens to disrupt the natural rhythm of our body clocks,” said Andrew Loudon, University of Manchester. “We’ve discovered that we can control one of the key molecules involved in setting the speed at which the clock ticks and in doing so we can actually kick it into a new rhythm.”

Most living creatures and plants have an internal body timing system — called the circadian clock. And one of the enzymes in our bodies called casein kinase 1 drives this clock.

“Any change in casein kinase 1 activity, faster or slower, would adjust the ‘ticking’ from 24 hours to some other time period,” Loudon said. “Consider that if your body suddenly starts working on a 23 hour or 25 hour clock, many of your natural processes, such as sleeping and waking could soon become out of step with day and night.”

Energy drink risks may outweigh benefits

The number of energy drinks available over the counter is unlimited these days, but how beneficial are these drinks really?

“Energy drinks typically feature caffeine and a combination of other ingredients, including taurine, sucrose, guarana, ginseng, niacin, pyridoxine and cyanocobalamin,” says Stephanie Ballard, Nova Southeastern University.

“Caffeine has been consistently been observed to enhance aerobic performance, although its effects on anaerobic performance may vary,” she added.

The impact of energy drinks on weight loss has different theories. Some data suggest that combined with exercise, they may lead to weight loss. However, other studies suggest that users may get addicted to caffeine, with increasing calorie-burn and weight loss.

However, being loaded with sugar, energy drinks may be contributing to the obesity epidemic alongside less caffeinated, sugary drinks like soda, warned Stephanie.

Caffeine has been reported to cause insomnia, nervousness, arrhythmias, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, pregnancy and childbirth complication, gastrointestinal upset and death. But small amounts can be safe and still boost performance.

New approach to make better artificial nose developed

By using fluorescent compounds and DNA, Stanford scientists have developed a new approach to building an ‘artificial nose’, which could accelerate the use of sniffing sensors into the realm of mass production and widespread use. If their method lives up to its promise, it could one day detect everything from incipiently souring milk to high explosives.

By sticking fluorescent compounds onto short strands of the molecules that form the backbone of DNA, the researchers have produced tiny sensor molecules that change colour when they detect certain substances.

The sensors were made using existing technology for synthesising DNA, and are viewed with a fluorescence microscope. The colour changes enable them to convey far more information than most other existing optical sensors.

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