Broken timers in organs may cause disease
Broken biological clocks in blood vessels may contribute to hardened arteries, even if the main timer in the brain works fine. The finding, from transplant experiments with mice, suggests that throwing off the daily rhythms of the body’s organs can have serious health consequences.
A wealth of evidence shows that skimping on sleep and working against the body’s natural daily, or circadian, rhythms can raise the risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. Scientists assumed that the diseases resulted from malfunctions in a master clock in the brain, which synchronizes sleeping, waking and other body functions with the rising and setting of the sun.
But recently, scientists have discovered that the liver and other organs have their own internal clocks that may work independently of the brain clock and are set by meal times or other cues (SN: 4/10/10, p. 22). It wasn’t clear unti