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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