‘Jet-lagged’ bees cause media buzz

New research investigating the impact of anaesthetic on bees’ body clocks has been featured widely in the news this week.

Researchers from the University of Auckland have used honeybees as a model to find out why patients waking from general anaesthesia experience ‘jet-lag’-like sleep disruption.

Scientists were able to measure the disruption of the bees’ internal time keeping caused by anaesthtic by using radio tracking transmitters to monitor the bees navigation. Because bees use the position of the sun and the (presumed) time of day to orient themselves in relation to their hive and food sources, changes in their navigation can indicate a change in their internal time keeping.

The researchers also studied anaesthetic-induced changes in the activity of genes in the bees’ brains, finding that general anesthetic disrupts the usual daily cycle of this activity, which is believed to be the bees’ internal ‘time-keeper’.

As bees’ internal clocks are believed to be similar to mammals, the research provides some understanding of what happens in humans when they are ‘put under’ for surgery. Managing this effect in humans could help with post-operative recovery, the authors suggest.

The research has been covered widely in the media. Examples include:

3 News: Bees help with jetlag study

Radio New Zealand: Bees give clue to link between anaesthetic and jetlag

Otago Daily Times: Study of anaesthesia effects

Medical Xpress: Study reveals how anaesthesia causes jet-lag

ABC Science: Jet lagged bees may help patient recovery

TVNZ News: Auckland bees left jet-lagged in stud

Science News: Daytime Anesthesia Gives Bees Jet Lag