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Beating Jet Lag


If you've ever traveled across time zones - whether it's to the West Coast or across the Atlantic - you've probably experienced jet lag, that sleepy, sick feeling that develops after a long flight.

Last year, it looked like a new "jet lag" drug might soon be available, but as 2010 came to a close, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) turned down the drug maker's application and the jet lag pill was shelved.

But, there may be another way to avoid jet lag. Scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have discovered that by changing the time that food is available to animals, they can readjust one of the brain's "clocks." And these findings may, in turn, help travelers avoid some of the symptoms that can develop when your body is out of sync with a new time zone.

BIDMC Chairman of Neurology Clifford Saper, MD, PhD, studies circadian rhythms, the body's biological rhythms that help us maintain our sleep-wake cycles. The body's primary "clock" is set by the light and dark cycle, so that humans are programmed to sleep at night and be awake during the day.

But Saper found that our bodies also have a backup "clock," which is powered by food availability. "When we fed animals only during the part of the light-dark cycle when they were supposed to be asleep, the brain turned on this second 'clock,' which quickly adjusted all of their body rhythms," he says. "This 'food-related clock' seems to have developed to help animals avoid starvation during times when food is scarce."

The scientists conducted experiments in animals and found that a single cycle of "starvation" - the equivalent of about 16 hours of fasting - followed by refeeding would turn on this second clock, overriding the light-based clock and readjusting the animals' circadian rhythms. And they quickly realized that their discovery might prove helpful to humans, including travelers and night-shift workers.

"An earlier attempt at devising a diet to avoid jet lag involved three days of alternately fasting and feeding," says Saper. "Our findings suggest a simpler approach. Let us say you are traveling from Boston to Paris, leaving at 8 p.m. and arriving the next morning at 10 a.m. You would stop eating after lunch on the day of your travel. You would not eat the dinner on the airplane, and instead go to sleep. Then, before the airplane lands, you would eat the breakfast that is offered, which will now be at the normal breakfast hour for Paris."

Saper adds that although this approach has not yet been tested in a clinical trial setting, it just might be enough to help you avoid the grogginess and discomfort of jet lag.

Tour Labor & Delivery From Home or Work

Parents-to-be are naturally excited as their delivery date nears and many want to view where the big event will take place. Now you can take a tour of BIDMC's labor, delivery and post-delivery units, right from your home or work computer.

The video tour was produced so that expecting moms, their partners and families can get a feel for the physical layout of the unit as well as the services and specialty care they will receive. It is an important alternative to coming into the hospital during the winter months, when cold and the flu season hit. Pregnant women should do whatever they can to avoid being around someone who is sick, and that includes entering a hospital setting to take a personal tour. While group tours are still available, it is hoped that this online tour will become an important resource for all who want to learn more about the birthing experience at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Researcher Receives International Award
for Work in Cancer Genetics

Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhDBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center cancer geneticist Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD, is the recipient of the 2011 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR (American Association of Cancer Research) International Award for Cancer Research. The prestigious award was established in 1997 to recognize a scientist of international renown who has made a major scientific discovery in either basic or translational cancer research and whose ongoing work holds promise for progress in the field of cancer.

"The BIDMC research community is extraordinarily proud of Dr. Pandolfi and of this award," says Chief Academic Officer Vikas Sukhatme, MD, PhD. "Pier Paolo now joins Lew Cantley as the second BIDMC investigator to receive the Pezcoller, the only time in the award's history that two investigators from the same institution have been recognized. This speaks to BIDMC's position as a world-class leader in cancer research and to the outstanding contributions being made by the BIDMC Cancer Center in translating molecular discoveries into patient treatments."

Pandolfi joined the BIDMC faculty in 2007, where he serves as Chief of the Division of Genetics in the Department of Medicine, Director of Research in the BIDMC Cancer Center, and director of the cancer genetics program. The George C. Reisman Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Pandolfi was recognized by the Pezcoller Foundation and the AACR for both his outstanding work in the field of cancer genetics, and for his groundbreaking development of cancer mouse models.

"Dr. Pandolfi's research has led to major breakthroughs in our essential understanding of how mutations in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes result in leukemias, lymphomas and solid tumors," adds BIDMC Cancer Center Director Lewis Cantley, PhD, who received the Pezcoller award in 2005. "His pioneering work in developing transgenic mouse models of cancer helped lead to novel therapeutic strategies for acute promyelocytic leukemia [APL], and, today, this unique expertise in mouse-model engineering is helping to speed the clinical testing of new personalized cancer therapies."

Among his many accomplishments, Pandolfi's prolific laboratory has characterized the function of oncoproteins and genes involved in the chromosomal translocations of APL, as well as of major tumor suppressors such as PTEN and p53, and novel proto-oncogenes, such as POKEMON. More recently, Pandolfi's laboratory challenged a central dogma of molecular biology with the discovery of a novel and critically important new role for messenger RNA that includes previously unrecognized biological functions for both coding and noncoding mRNA.

"I'm extremely honored to receive the Pezcoller award," says Pandolfi. "This is a tremendously exciting time - I would even say revolutionary - for cancer research and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. As we now clearly recognize, 'cancer' is not a single disease, but is made up of many, many different mutations. While this provides us with unprecedented opportunities for developing personalized treatments, our ultimate goal is to understand and cure cancer. This award gives us further motivation to achieve this goal as we continue to fight relentlessly for the sake of our patients."

A native of Rome, Pandolfi received his MD in 1989 and PhD in 1995, both from the University of Perugia, Italy. He completed post-graduate work at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, University of London, before joining the faculty of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences at Cornell University in 1994.

Pandolfi is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute MERIT Award; the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America Stohlman Scholar Award; the Weizmann Institute of Science: Sergio Lombroso Prize for Cancer Research; the William and Linda Steere Foundation Award; and the prize for Scientific Excellence in Medicine from the American-Italian Cancer Foundation. He has also been awarded the Fondazione Cortese International Award; the Prostate Cancer Foundation Creativity Award; and the Ischia International Award.

In 2006, Pandolfi was elected as a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Association of Physicians, and in 2007 became a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. He is the author of more than 300 papers.

Pandolfi will deliver an award lecture entitled "The Non-Coding Revolution: A Coding-Independent Function of Gene and Pseudogene mRNAs Regulates Tumour Biology" during the 102nd Annual Meeting 2011 of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando, Florida, this spring.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted January 2011

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