Your body's circadian clock is responsible for making sure you stay healthy, by regulating metabolism and carrying out internal housekeeping chores on a steady 24-hour schedule. About 15% of genes are controlled by your bodily clock, including some important ones in your intenstines that keep infectious bacteria like salmonella in check. Dr. Paolo Sassone-Corsi is a professor of biological chemistry at the UC Irvine School of Medicine and Director of UCI's Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism. Together with his colleague, microbiologist Manuela Raffatellu of UCI's Institute for Immunology, the Irvine bio research team has recently published an article in PNAS revealing how the immune system, specifically as it works in your intestinal track, is strongly directed by circadian rhythms. Upset that biological timing and you put yourself at greater risk of getting sick.
[Drs. Sassone-Corsi and RAffatellu, courtesy of Jocelyn Lee / University Communications at UCI]
Dr. Sassone-Corsi is one of the top circadian genetic research scientists in the world. In a UCI press release he says of the study:
“Although many immune responses are known to follow daily oscillations, the role of the circadian clock in the immune response to acute infections has not been understood. What we’re learning is that the intrinsic power of the body clock can help fight infections.”
Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression. Genes are programmed with a memory that tells them what to become and how to interact with other genes in the complex molecular pathways of a multicellular organism. Some genes may never switch on, and others may do so optimally at certain times of the day. An immune system gene, for instance, needs to be switched on to fight an infection, and there may be hours when that expression is most robust. The body only has so much energy to expend on maintenance, and since the 24-hour daily cycle is perhaps the most constant element in our lives, it makes sense to have certain hours of the day when we focus on particular parts of the larger machine.
[The biological clock, courtesy of Wikipedia]
Another recently published research study dealing with circadian rhythms, out of UCLA, identified a gene common to both sleep disorders and migraines. People with an aberrant "sleep gene" were likely to suffer from both sleep disturbance and debilitating headaches. The casein kinase I delta (CKIδ) gene affects several different proteins in the cell, some having to do with sleep and others associated with greater sensitivity to pain. The research team next hopes to isolate the migraine response within the cell and link it to a single protein activity.
For an earlier blog of ours on Southern California bio research into the circadian clock and its role in metabolism, read: So Cal Bio Research Scientists Unlock Metabolic Secrets of Biological Clock.
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- 10/08/2013 -- 13th Annual BRPF event, UC Irvine
- 10/09/2013 -- 9th Semiannual Front Line event, University of Southern California, Health Sciences Campus
- 10/10/2013 -- 31th Semiannual BVS event, UCLA
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