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01 Dec 2021

Link found between disrupted sleeping patterns and inflammatory diseases according to new research

New research finds new link between disrupted sleeping patterns and inflammatory diseases

New research finds new link between disrupted sleeping patterns and inflammatory diseases

The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) conducted a study that demonstrated the significant role that an irregular body clock plays in driving inflammation in the body’s immune cells.

The body clock generates 24-hour rhythms that keep humans healthy and in time with the day/night cycle which includes regulating the rhythm of the body's own immune cells called macrophages.

When the cell rhythms are disrupted from erratic eating, sleeping patterns, or shift work, the cells produce molecules that drive inflammation which in turn can lead to chronic inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, obesity, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer, according to the study.

It also impacts our ability to fight infection.

Researchers looked at key immune cells called macrophages with and without a body clock under laboratory conditions.

They investigated if macrophages without a body clock might use or 'metabolise' fuel differently and if that might be the reason these cells produce more inflammatory products.

The research found that macrophages without a body clock took up far more glucose and broke it down more quickly than normal cells. 

The mitochondria (the cells energy powerhouse), the pathways by which glucose was further broken down to produce energy were very different in macrophages without a clock.

This led to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) which further fuelled inflammation.

The lead author of the study, Dr. George Timmons said their results add to the growing body of work showing why disruption of our body clock leads to inflammatory and infectious disease.

"One of the aspects is fuel usage at the level of key immune cells such as macrophages." he added.

Senior Lecturer at RCSI School of Pharmacy and senior author on the paper, Dr. Annie Curtis said the study also shows that anything which negatively impacts our body clocks, such as insufficient sleep and not enough daylight, can impact the ability of our immune system to work effectively.

The study was published in 'Frontiers of Immunology' and was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Swansea University, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of Bristol.

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