An increased number of “vacuoles,” or holes in the brain, indicate neuronal damage and appear in fruit flies with disrupted biological clocks. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)
“In these experiments, we showed through both environmental and genetic approaches that disrupting the biological clock accelerated these health problems,” said Kuntol Rakshit, an OSU graduate fellow.
“There’s a great deal of interest right now in studies on circadian rhythms, as we learn more about the range of problems that can result when they are disrupted,” Rakshit said. “Ultimately we hope that this research will be taken from the laboratory to the bedside.”
The biological clock, in humans and many other animals, is a complex genetic mechanism tuned to the 24-hour day and regular cycles of light, dark and sleep. It influences a wide range of biological processes, from fertility to hormone production, feeding patterns, DNA repair, sleep, stress reactions, even the effectiveness of medications. In humans, researchers have found strong correlations between disrupted clock mechanisms, aging, and neurologic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease.
……”A healthy biological clock helps protect against this damage,” she said. “When the clock fails, the damage processes speed up.”