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New Irish study finds link between poor sleep schedules and diseases like arthritis and cancer

The study was carried out by the RCSI.

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NEW RESEARCH FROM the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) has found a new link between an irregular body clock and serious inflammatory diseases.

The study explained how our body clocks generate 24-hour rhythms that keep us healthy and in time with the day/night cycle. This includes regulating the rhythm of the body’s own immune cells called macrophages. 

The RCSI said that when these cell rhythms are disrupted, due to things like erratic eating/sleeping patterns or shift work, the cells produce molecules which drive inflammation. 

This can lead to inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, obesity, arthritis, diabetes and cancer, and also impact the body’s ability to fight infection.

In this new study, the researchers looked at key immune cells called macrophages with and without a body clock under laboratory conditions. 

They did this in an attempt to understand if cells, without a body clock, might use or metabolise fuel differently, and if that might be the reason these cells produce more inflammatory products. 

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

They also found that, in 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.

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The research found that this led to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) which further fuelled inflammation

Dr George Timmons, lead author on the study, said: “Our results add to the growing body of work showing why disruption of our body clock leads to inflammatory and infectious disease, and one of the aspects is fuel usage at the level of key immune cells such as macrophages.”

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

RCSI conducted the study in collaboration with researchers from Swansea University, Trinity College Dublin and University of Bristol.

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