News In Brief

UC Irvine Study Links Circadian Rhythms With Metabolism
A UC Irvine study showed that the disruption of normal sleep patterns increases hunger and accelerates the aging process. The study appeared in the July 25 issue of “Cell.”
Although scientists have known for some time that metabolism is tied to the body’s circadian rhythms, they have not known exactly how. UC Irvine Professor and Chair of Pharmacology Paolo Sassone-Corsi and his colleagues determined in 2006 that circadian rhythms are controlled by the body’s biological CLOCK protein. CLOCKs regulate the changes in mental and physical characteristics that occur throughout the course of the day, about 15 percent of the significant bodily functions. Now they have identified the protein SIRT1 as the missing link between the body’s rhythmic activities and metabolism. SIRT1 is what keeps the CLOCK ticking; it modulates how much energy a cell uses and is also a key regulator of aging.
Irregular circadian rhythms can cause metabolic disorders, insomnia, depression, coronary heart diseases and cancer. However, findings suggest that proper sleep and diet can rebuild the CLOCK-SIRT1 equilibrium, decreasing the risk of such problems.
Sassone-Corsi’s research has the potential to lead to the development of drugs to combat social problems such as obesity and diabetes.

Review Committee Planned to Determine Cause of Student Death
Representatives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s-Coroners Department are planning to form a review committee to decide a cause of death for Jacob Okoli, a third-year UC Irvine transfer student whose body was found in the trunk of his car in Fontana on March 9.
“We’re going to have a review committee comprised of the coroner division staff, the investigators, probably a couple of supervisors and the doctors and we’re going to discuss the case to determine if we’re looking at possibly a suicide or a homicide or an accidental death,” said Tony Campisi, the San Bernardino County Supervising Deputy Coroner.
A cause of death should be declared by the beginning of September, said Campesi.
Okoli was found with a gunshot wound to the head and a small-hand caliber gun was in his trunk. However, it has yet to be determined who fired the shot. While a cause of death should be determined within the next few weeks, according to Campisi, it is not definite that the answer to this question will be discovered
“[I]t could be outside of a suicide or homicide or an accidental death. Whatever it is, we could also come up with an undetermined manner of death, but that hasn’t been decided yet,” Campisi said.
Okoli had not completed any coursework while attending UCI at the time of his death.

Scientists Find Protein That Could Shorten Recovery From Trauma
Scientists from UC Irvine and the University of Muenster in Germany have found that a small protein in the brain called neuropeptide S inhibits responses to traumatic memories by working on neurons found in the amygdala, the memory center of the brain.
In tests, scientists found that inhibiting the NPS receptors prolonged traumatic responses while activating the receptors with drugs accelerated the disappearance of those reactions. This research could lead to new drugs that combat fear disorders.