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Question Your World: Could We Ever Control Our Biological Clocks?

Every living creature on Earth is designed, more or less, by four basic nucleic acids. These acids combined in various sequences and strands form our DNA, which dictates everything about us from our daily physiology to our biological rhythms, commonly referred to as our biological clocks. This clock controls when we’re active, when we eat, how we age, and so on. So here’s the big question, could we someday alter our biological clocks? Listen to the latest Question Your World Radio Report from the Science Museum of Virginia.

Recently, scientists at Vanderbilt University have been playing around with genetic nucleic acid sequencing and they have come to some pretty amazing conclusions. As stated earlier, every living organism is made up of these four basic nucleic acids--A T G C. The various combinations of these four linked together form all the basic information about the living creature. For a recent experiment scientists had isolated the sequence that is responsible for the productivity cycle of a blue-green algae. A set of nucleic acids from a common bread mold was taken and applied to the blue-green algae, which would yield some amazing results!

Once the codes were exchanged the blue-green algae was actually able to stay productive in an environment when it would normally not be productive at all. Meaning, the scientists were able to change the way the biological clock on this organism functioned.

One instance in which this type of genetic change would be beneficial for humans would be a quick cure for jet lag. Again, our biological clocks dictate when our species rises and shines to when we tuck in and nod off. Every one time zone change requires a full day to recover and adjust for our natural circadian cycle. Imagine being able to take some sort of biological adjustment pill, hop a plane to Australia, and have no jet lag of any sort to affect your travels. As strange as it seems, this is exactly what altering a biological clock pattern could allow.

Of course the blue-green algae is a far cry in complexity from the human system, but the genetic swap does bring up a couple of good questions: Could this be possible in humans someday…and...should we be altering our systems in the first place? Only time will tell.

Article by Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia

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