Polar Race 2005

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  18 Neville Road
  KT1 3QX

Tel: +44 (0)20 8549 1457
Fax: +44 (0)20 8241 7914
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Polar Race 2003 News: January 2003

28 Janurary 2003 - Competitors will have the opportunity to take part in some ground breaking scientific research.

The research focuses on the brain hormone melatonin. Secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland in the brain is known in short-term laboratory studies to be suppressed by exposure to high levels of light. Melatonin is known to affect sleep and influences secretions of other hormones. Melatonin has recently been implicated in the development of some types of cancer, our ability to fight infection and the development of the most common form of diabetes.

Participants will take advantage of their heavy exposure to high light levels, since there is no darkness during the "night" in the arctic summer, to collect samples for measurement of their melatonin levels before, during and after the race. It is not known what prolonged exposure to high levels of light does to melatonin secretion and if the human sleep-wake cycle adjusts to these conditions.

The work is being carried out in conjunction with the world leaders in the field of "chronobiology" at the University of Surrey (http://www.surrey.ac.uk). Based at the University's new sleep laboratory at Guildford, Dr Derk-Jan Dijk and his team will be measuring melatonin levels from the saliva of the polar racers.

Synthetic forms of melatonin already exist in the form of medication. The findings of this research could have significant implications for future research into sleepiness and shift work, hormone research and the treatment and prevention of diabetes and some types of cancer.

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