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July 3, 2014

Biological clocks optimize performance, affects aging

By Dan Levindofske

“Aging is not for sissies,” Josephine Hatala said. The 82-year-old may be on to something.

Aging is one of the things that affects all of us, but the question is what causes it. Some people say diet, others say exercise, along with a laundry list of other factors.

For Roman Kondratov, an associate professor at Cleveland State University, one of the answers may be your biological clock.

“The biological clock is a system for optimization of biological processes,” Kondratov said.

Before arriving at Cleveland State, Kondratov had received his Master’s degree in Physics and Mathematics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. He also earned a Ph.D in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the Enhelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology.

Kondratov has been researching circadian rhythms, or the changes that follow a daily cycle and react to environmental changes and the effects that they have on aging.

The results of his studies have shown a strong positive correlation between the two.

He found that the same daily rhythm or pattern optimizes performance and interference with or deviation from this behavior can decrease performance.

Kondratov also hypothesizes that this may also affect aging and put individuals at risk of contracting diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Increased risk of disease is often due to aging, particularly old age, which can be accelerated if one’s biological clock is disrupted.

“We often think of age in terms of our chronological age, but that is not our biological age,” Kondratov said.

Whether or not we all possess different individual biological clocks is still unknown.

What is known is that it takes your biological clock several days to adjust to a change in the environment.

For wild animals, biological clocks run rather smoothly as they maintain the same behavior patterns and inhabit the same environment in most circumstances. It is exponentially more complicated for humans, as we live much more complex and random lives.

One example of an activity that could interfere with one’s biological clock is flying to and from different time zones.

This drastic change in environment and location severely affects your biological clock, however, there is currently no data to suggest that traveling will have negative long-term effects on aging.

Kondratov does state however, that a disruption in your biological clock could have adverse side effects.

“If you jeopardize your clock, you will accelerate your aging,” Kondratov said. “If you destroy your clock, you will reduce your lifespan.”

Another way in which people often disrupt our biological clocks is through a phenomenon known as social jet lag.

Social jet lag is the difference in sleep pattern and activity between the week and the weekend.

For a majority of the population, social jet lag is all but avoidable, as people must live within the confines of society and its norms.

This phenomenon is a product of that as people often awake early and go to work and go to sleep early during the week, but sleep in and go to sleep later on the weekend.

A simple way to prevent this would be to maintain the same sleeping pattern everyday instead of switching it up on the weekend.

The weekend is only two days, which is not enough time to allow our biological clock to adjust to the shift in sleeping and behavioral patterns.

In regards to the actual research that Kondratov does on biological clocks, he does experiments on mostly rodents, much like medical testing.

Kondratov also mentioned that similar research is also conducted on Rhesus monkeys over a longer period of time.

It would be impossible to study humans in relation to this particular area because our lifespan is simply too long.

Also, the complexity of our everyday lives makes applying the research done on biological clocks more difficult.

Rodents are the chosen subjects because they have a short lifespan and are easy to acquire

The experiments are conducted by first altering the genes of the rodents beforehand.

One of these alterations includes removing the biological clock of some rodents to see how they would function and if hey could survive.

The results of the experiments showed that the rodents could indeed survive without a biological clock, they just did not anticipate their environments.

When placed in a light environment they acted identical to their biological clock-possessing counterparts, but when moved to a dark environment their behavior was more random.

Kondratov stated that the ultimate goal is to apply the research to humans to slow aging and increase lifespan through intervention that might help optimize performance by way of biological clocks.

“There are different interventions to increase lifespan, including calorie restriction,” Kondratov said.

“We believe intervention might work through biological clocks.”

Note: Rhesus monkey was mispelled in print version.