The Effect of Night Shifts Gene Expression Fails to Adapt to New Sleep Patterns


Source: McGill University

Summary: Researchers have discovered that genes regulating important biological processes are incapable of adapting to new sleeping and eating patterns and that most of them stay tuned to their daytime biological clock rhythms.


Have you ever considered that working night shifts may, in the long run, have an impact on your health? It is known that the expression of many genes varies over the course of the day and night. Their repetitive rhythms are important for the regulation of many physiological and behavioural processes. Researchers from the McGill University affiliated Douglas Mental Health University Institute (DMHUI) found that genes regulating important biological processes are incapable of adapting to new sleeping and eating patterns and that most of them stay tuned to their daytime biological clock rhythms. They were able to show the impact that a 4-day simulation of night shift work had on the expression of 20,000 genes. The study findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Night shift-gene expression-Sleep pattern

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

For this study, eight healthy volunteers were artificially subjected to a five-day schedule simulating night shift work. In a time-isolation room, they were deprived of any light or sound cues characteristic of the time of day, and were not allowed to use their phones or laptops. The first day the participants slept during their normal bedtimes. The four following days were “night shifts“: the volunteers remained awake during the night and slept during the day. On the first day and after the last night shift, the team collected blood samples at different times for a period of 24 hours, then measured the expression of more than 20,000 genes using a technique called transcriptomic analysis, and assessed which of these genes presented a variation over the day-night cycle.

Prof. Diane B. Boivin said, “We think the molecular changes we observed potentially contribute to the development of health problems like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases more frequently seen in night-shift workers on the long term.”


More Information: Laura Kervezee et al, “Simulated night shift work induces circadian misalignment of the human peripheral blood mononuclear cell transcriptome”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018). http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/05/01/1720719115


 

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