With many of us in the habit of snoozing our bedroom alarm clocks, we may just wonder if the same is possible with the body’s biological clock. Well, scientists at the Salk Institute have found an apparent regulator of the body’s circadian rhythm that could lead to new therapies and drugs for the treatment of sleep and metabolic disorders.
In the research, the team found 2 cellular switches called REV-ERB-α and REV-ERB-β in the nuclei of mice prototypes. Both these molecules seemed to be responsible for controlling diet and sleeping phases of the subjects.
“This fundamentally changes our knowledge about the workings of the circadian clock and how it orchestrates our sleep-wake cycles, when we eat and even the times our bodies metabolize nutrients. Nuclear receptors can be targeted with drugs, which suggests we might be able to target REV-ERB-α and β to treat disorders of sleep and metabolism,” commented Ronald M. Evans, a professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory.
Prior to this trial, these 2 genes were thought to play minor roles in the biological clock. However, when the mice were conditioned to perform in the absence of REV-ERB-α and REV-ERB-β, their circadian cycles apparently went awry. Similar to scenarios like ‘wrong place at the wrong time,’ the subjects functioned rather haphazardly.
This led the scientists to conclude that both these genes are not secondary players in the biological clock, but forerunners. In the absence of these essential switches, the circadian rhythm is likely to be out-of-sync.
Considering that there’s a huge link between biological cycles and metabolic disorders like diabetes or obesity, this discovery could lead to therapeutic alternatives for both these conditions. The analysis is published in the journal, Nature.