- Aging hamsters who received a new biological
clock had their lifespan increased by 20 per cent, proving the importance
of circadian rhythms to the health and longevity of an organism.
- Once the biological clock of a hamster
begins to deteriorate, death occurs within three months. However, when
University of Toronto psychologist Martin Ralph transplanted a new clock
into hamsters whose own clocks had begun to deteriorate, they lived an
average of four months longer than hamsters without the transplant -- roughly
a 20 per cent increase in their lifespan.
- A biological clock is a small piece of
brain tissue that generates a rhythm controlling the day/night behaviour
of an organism. When this rhythm breaks down, as it does in many aging
humans, it leads to numerous health problems including disrupted sleep
patterns and poor body temperature control. Ralph says that while it is
highly unlikely humans will ever receive new biological clocks, behaviour
modification might achieve similar results.
- "If the function of the clock can
be mimicked by a structured lifestyle, such as more light during the day
and darkness at night, then this will work in the same direction as the
transplant works in hamsters," he says.
- Ralph collaborated with Mark Hurd of
the University of Houston. The study was supported by the National Institute
on Aging in the United States and the Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council in Canada.