Insight into mammalian circadian rhythms could lead to therapies for obesity, diabetes.
We’ve all heard about circadian rhythm, the roughly 24-hour oscillations of biological processes that occur in many living organisms. Yet for all its influence in many aspects of our lives — from sleep to immunity and, particularly, metabolism — relatively little is understood about the mammalian circadian rhythm and the interlocking processes that comprise this complex biological clock.
Through intensive analysis and computer modeling, researchers at UC Santa Barbara have gained insight into factors that affect these oscillations, with results that could lend themselves to circadian regulation and pharmacological control. Their work appears in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Our group has been fascinated with circadian rhythms for over 10 years now, as they represent a marvelous example of robust control at the molecular scale in nature,” said Frank Doyle, chair of UCSB’s Department of Chemical Engineering and the principal investigator for the UCSB team. “We are constantly amazed by the mechanisms that nature uses to control these clocks, and we seek to unravel their principles for engineering applications as well as shed light on the underlying cellular mechanisms for medical purposes.”
“Focus is often given to metabolism, cell division and other generic cell processes, but circadian oscillations are just as central to how life is organized,” said Peter St. John, a researcher in the Department of Chemical Engineering and lead author of the study.