Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


 


 

Shift work has 'chaotic' effect on genes

27 January 2014

By Dr Nicola Davis

Appeared in BioNews 739

Shifting sleep patterns can dramatically affect the normal rhythm of gene expression, a study has found.

Like many animals, humans have a natural body clock, called the circadian rhythm. This regulates our sleep-wake cycles and metabolism, among other things.

By disrupting the normal sleep-wake cycles of 22 volunteers over a week, scientists at the University of Surrey showed a sixfold reduction in the number of genes being expressed in a rhythmic pattern.

'Over 97 percent of rhythmic genes become out of sync with mistimed sleep', says study author Dr Simon Archer from the University of Surrey. 'This really explains why we feel so bad during jet lag'.

The volunteers experienced 28-hour days, without the normal changes in light levels. Their sleep was delayed by four hours every day until they were 12 hours out of sync, meaning they were sleeping during the day. Blood samples were taken to test which genes were being expressed rhythmically.

The genes that lost their rhythm were involved in many important processes, such as normal gene expression and the circadian rhythm. Because these are general processes, changes in their expression could have further effects on many other biological systems.

Professor Hugh Piggins, who is a circadian rhythm researcher at the University of Manchester, and not associated with this study, told the BBC: 'The study indicated that the acute effects are quite severe. It is surprising how large an effect was noticed so quickly'.

Increasingly, shift work is being associated with enhanced risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart attacks. Some studies have also linked disruptions in the circadian rhythm to illnesses such as depression (reported in BioNews 705).

'We of course know that shift work and jet lag is associated with negative side effects and health consequences,' says Professor Derk-Jan Dijk from the University of Surrey, who led this research. 'We believe that these changes in rhythmic patterns of gene expression are likely to be related to some of those long term health consequences.'

The results also suggested that changes in the expression of some genes was a result of the disrupted sleep pattern, rather than the body clock. This information could help in the search to understand the functional role of sleep.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
NHS Choices | 21 January 2014
 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) | 18 December 2013
 
University of Surrey (press release) | 21 January 2014
 
BBC News | 21 January 2014
 
Daily Mail | 21 January 2014
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

03 July 2017 - by Jennifer Willows 
DNA repair may be reduced in people working at night time, compared with those having a night's sleep, according to new research from the US...
27 February 2017 - by Emma Laycock 
Researchers have found a set of bodyclock-controlled genes that activate in later life and times of intense stress to protect the body...
13 February 2017 - by Ayala Ochert 
Miscarriage rates following IVF appear to increase when the clocks go forward in the spring, according to a study...
08 February 2016 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
Scientists have used data from personal genomics company 23andMe to identify a set of genes that are linked to being a 'morning person'...
27 July 2015 - by Ayala Ochert 
A study mimicking the effects of shift work has found that just one night without sleep alters the expression of bodyclock genes and disrupts metabolism...

28 October 2013 - by Siobhan Chan 
A DNA-based biological clock has shown that different parts of the body age at varying rates, with breast tissue and tumour cells appearing older than the rest of the body...
02 September 2013 - by Siobhan Chan 
A 'molecular basis' of jet lag has been identified and blocked in mice by inhibiting the activity of a single gene, according to scientists...
20 May 2013 - by Dr Amina Aitsi-Selmi 
Genes believed to regulate sleep rhythm are expressed abnormally in people with major depressive disorders, scientists say...
20 February 2012 - by Oliver Timmis 
What time of day it is could influence whether or not we get an infection. A protein known to be involved in the immune system may be influenced by the body's circadian rhythm, according to researchers at Yale University...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation