Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

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Presentation Discussion

  • Icon for: Annie Aigster

    Annie Aigster

    May 23, 2012 | 10:03 a.m.

    I enjoyed your presentation. I’m wondering about the sleep cycles of flies compared to humans. Are they similar?

  • Icon for: Kuntol Rakshit

    Kuntol Rakshit

    May 23, 2012 | 11:34 a.m.

    Hello Anne,
    Thanks for your interest! Flies have very well defined rhythms in sleep and activity and this is very similar to humans. This is the primary reason that makes flies a good model to study biological clocks.
    Regards, Kuntol

  • Icon for: Carolyn Aldwin

    Carolyn Aldwin

    May 23, 2012 | 12:04 p.m.

    Great job, Kuntol! Now is there anything you can do with this model to increase longevity?

  • Icon for: Kuntol Rakshit

    Kuntol Rakshit

    May 23, 2012 | 12:51 p.m.

    Hello Carolyn,
    Thank you! We are currently trying genetic and other therapeutic approaches as an attempt to rejuvenate the dampened circadian oscillations during aging. We want to investigate if stronger clock oscillations could lead to longer lifespan, better healthspan (fitness parameters) and reduced neurodegeneration.
    Best regards, Kuntol

  • Icon for: Jeffrey Proulx

    Jeffrey Proulx

    May 24, 2012 | 09:25 a.m.

    Very nice job Kuntol. I wonder if you can get the flies to meditate.

  • Icon for: Kuntol Rakshit

    Kuntol Rakshit

    May 24, 2012 | 10:51 a.m.

    Thanks Jeff! We have never tried getting the flies to meditate. Not sure if we could do that! But, we can definitely adjust their sleeping patterns to various light:dark regimes. Best, Kuntol

  • Icon for: Margery Hines

    Margery Hines

    May 24, 2012 | 08:06 p.m.

    Great job! I enjoyed your video and this is a very interesting topic. Have you considered the health impacts to people with a chronic circadian rhythm sleep disorder, such as non-24 hour syndrome? If not, do you think people with these types of disorders are in danger of health problems due to having an inaccurate internal body clock or due to constantly trying to alter their sleep schedules to agree with a typical 24 hour day? I realize this is probably slightly-off topic but I thought it would be interesting to see your opinion.

  • Icon for: Kuntol Rakshit

    Kuntol Rakshit

    May 25, 2012 | 03:02 p.m.

    Thank you for your kind words Margery! Indeed multiple studies in humans and rodent models with chronic circadian disorders are prone to cancer, premature aging, and a variety of other pathological diseases. This includes shift-workers, pilots, nurses etc who have their clocks dysregulated due to their work environment. However such findings are of correlative nature and therefore we want to investigate the underlying mechanisms. Regards, Kuntol

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Icon for: Kuntol Rakshit


Oregon State University
Years in Grad School: 4

The circadian clock and its neuro-protective role during aging

We experience the potent effects of circadian clocks when we travel across time zones and feel jet-lagged! These clocks generate circa-24h rhythms in sleep/activity, cognitive abilities, and hormone levels, besides other metabolic and cellular rhythms. Recent studies suggest that disruption of rhythms is associated with premature aging and age-related pathologies in mammals. Since the clock mechanism is highly conserved between mammals and the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, we use fruitflies to study circadian clocks and aging. We determined that aging is associated with disrupted rest/activity patterns, and lengthening of the free-running period of locomotor activity, suggesting weakened clock mechanism. Indeed, aging flies showed dampened mRNA oscillations of the essential clock gene period (per) in heads.
Aging is associated with accumulation of oxidative damage in the nervous system. Because impaired circadian rhythms are observed in many neurological diseases, we hypothesized that loss of clocks may contribute to neurodegeneration in aging flies. To test this, we combined a null mutation in the clock gene period (per01) that disrupts circadian rhythms, with a mutation in the gene sniffer (sni1), which displays oxidative stress-induced neurodegeneration. We report that per01 sni1 double mutants showed accelerated brain-damage, impaired vertical mobility, and accumulated damaged proteins. Additionally, loss of circadian rhythms by both genetic and environmental manipulations significantly reduced the lifespan of sni1 mutant. Our study suggests that circadian clocks are involved in neuro-protective pathways which may curb damage to the nervous system during aging. These findings may serve as a starting point for translational research in humans.