Soon Pills to adjust night-shift workers’ body clockPublished On: Sat, Jan 17th, 2015 | Sleep | By BioNews
What if a pill could help adjust your internal body clock to night shifts or jet lag the way it works during the day to eliminate various health risks, including cancer?
This may be possible, says a team of Australian researchers, with the administration of glucocorticoid tablets, a class of hormones used as powerful anti-inflammatory compounds to treat various diseases.
“This new scientific discovery opens the door to innovative therapies that could act on the different parts of the circadian system so that these rhythms can be adjusted to inverted sleep schedules,” said Diane B Boivin, director of the centre for study and treatment of circadian rhythms at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.
For this, the team studied the rhythmic expression of clock genes in white blood cells to see how they adjusted in response to glucocorticoids.
The researchers analysed 16 healthy volunteers who were studied in temporal isolation chambers.
The results showed, for the first time, that the peripheral biological clocks located in white blood cells can be synchronised through the administration of glucocorticoid tablets.
“These cells are involved in our body’s reaction to attacks from many pathogens. This study suggests that biological rhythms may play a role in controlling immune function in night-shift workers,” added co-author Marc Cuesta, post-doctoral fellow.
Physiological changes over the course of a day are regulated by a circadian system comprised of a central clock located deep within the centre of the brain and multiple clocks located in different parts of the body.
Since humans are fundamentally diurnal creatures, staying awake at night can significantly disrupt all of the body’s internal biological clocks.
Over the long term, this can lead to a high incidence of various health problems, such as metabolic or cardiovascular problems or even certain types of cancer.
We studied the rhythmic expression of clock genes in white blood cells to see how they adjusted in response to glucocorticoids. These cells are involved in our body’s reaction to attacks from many pathogens. This study therefore suggests that biological rhythms may play a role in controlling immune function in night-shift workers,” added Dr. Marc Cuesta, a postdoctoral fellow who works in the laboratories of Dr. Boivin and Dr. Cermakian.
The previous work of Dr. Boivin and her team showed that exposing workers to bright light at night tor adjusting work schedules can improve the synchronisation of the central biological clock to their atypical work schedule. This new scientific discovery opens the door to innovative therapies that could act on the different parts of the circadian system so that these rhythms can be adjusted to inverted sleep schedules. These studies have possible applications for travellers, night-shift workers, patients suffering from sleep disorders and circadian rhythm disorders, as well as people with various psychiatric disorders.
“At this stage, we are not recommending the use of glucocorticoids to adjust the rhythms of night-shift workers, as there could be medical risks,” explained Dr. Boivin. “However, these results lead us to believe that we may one day be able to use a combined therapy that targets the central clock (inverting work schedules, administering controlled light therapy) with a pharmacological treatment that targets the peripheral clocks to ensure that all clocks are adjusted.”
The new study was published in The FASEB Journal.
Marc Cuesta, Nicolas Cermakian, and Diane B. Boivin. Glucocorticoids entrain molecular clock components in human peripheral cells. FASEB J fj.14-265686; published ahead of print December 12, 2014, doi:10.1096/fj.14-265686