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Chronic jet-lag conditions hasten death in aged mice

Researchers have found that aged mice undergoing weekly light-cycle shifts--similar to those that humans experience with jet lag or rotating shift work--experienced significantly higher death rates than did old mice kept on a normal daylight schedule over the same eight-week period. The findings may not come as a great surprise to exhausted globe-trotting business travelers, but the research nonetheless provides, in rather stark terms, new insight into how the disruption of circadian rhythms can impact well-being and physiology, and how those impacts might change with age. The mouse study is reported by a group led by Gene Block and Alec Davidson of the University of Virginia and appears in the November 7th issue of the journal Current Biology, published by Cell Press.

The researchers were led to examine a possible link between jet lag and mortality by something they had noticed in an earlier, unrelated study: A surprising fraction of old (but genetically altered) rats exposed to a six-hour advance in their light cycle died after the shift in schedule.

In the new work, the researchers examined the mortality link in earnest by looking at how young mice and old mice fared when subjected to two different types of light-cycle shifts. In one regimen, mice experienced a six-hour forward shift once a week, while in the other, mice experienced a six-hour backward shift. A "control" group of young and old mice did not experience any schedule shifts.

The researchers found that the young mice generally survived well under the various conditions. In contrast, the light-cycle shifts had a marked effect on the survivorship of the old mice. While 83% of old mice survived under the normal schedule, 68% survived under the backward-shift regimen and 47% survived under the forward-shift regimen.

Past work has also linked changes in light schedule with death in other animals and under different experimental circumstances, but the findings here
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Contact: Heidi Hardman
hhardman@cell.com
617-397-2879
Cell Press
6-Nov-2006


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