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‘Alarm Clock’ Gene Discovered

September 30, 2011 by  

LA JOLLA, Calif., Sept. 29 (UPI) — The human body has a so-called alarm clock gene that wakes up even if one hasn’t set the bedside alarm, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., said the gene is responsible for starting the body’s biological clock from its restful state every morning.

Discovery of the new gene and the mechanism by which it starts the clock every day may help explain the genetic underpinnings of sleeplessness, aging and chronic illnesses, an institute release said Thursday.

“The body is essentially a collection of clocks,” Salk researcher Satchindananda Panda said. “We roughly knew what mechanism told the clock to wind down at night, but we didn’t know what activated us again in the morning.”

The Salk researchers and collaborators at McGill University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine describe how the gene KDM5A encodes a protein as an activation switch in the biochemical circuit that maintains circadian rhythm.

“Now that we’ve found it, we can explore more deeply how our biological clocks malfunction as we get older and develop chronic illness.

“So much of what it means to be healthy and youthful comes down to a good night’s sleep,” Panda said.

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