Wednesday, March 01, 2006

ClockNews

The rhythm of life:
Mention circadian rhythms, and most of us think of jet lag or how tired we were after that all-night party. But researchers say that circadian clocks -- which control a 24-hour cycle first documented by a French scientist in a darkened closet in 1729 -- have profound effects on almost everything that walks, crawls or grows.

Circadian clocks control leaf and petal movements in plants, migratory patterns of birds, the life cycles of insects and biochemical reactions in bacteria. They also have major effects on us.

"We're finding there's no limit to the role these rhythms play," says Jay Dunlap, chairman of genetics at the Dartmouth Medical School, who studies circadian rhythms in fungi. "There's enormously rich biology behind this phenomenon."

The Sleep Racket:

Who's making big bucks off your insomnia?

Over the last year you could have made a pile of money by betting on a little company in the business of ... insomnia. Shares of ResMed, in Poway, Calif., leaped 44%, selling $465 million worth of “sleep-disordered-breathing” equipment--face masks, nasal pillows, humidifiers and so-called continuous positive airway pressure devices. “It’s a monster market; it’s bigger than Ben-Hur,” says Peter C. Farrell, ResMed’s voluble chief executive. You’d have done even better as an original investor in Pacific Sleep Medicine Services, a small chain of sleep centers, mostly in southern California. One of its founders who chipped in an undisclosed amount in 1998 saw his ante jump a hundredfold, says Tom J. Wiedel, Pacific Sleep’s chief financial officer.

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