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The body clock allows the body to anticipate and respond to the 24-hour external environment. Inflammation is normally a protective process that enables the body to clear infection or damage, however if left unchecked can lead to disease.
By understanding how the body clock controls the inflammatory response, researchers at RCSI may be able to target these conditions at certain times of the day to have the most benefit. These findings may also shed light on why individuals who experience body clock disruption such as shift workers are more susceptible to these inflammatory conditions.
The study was led by researchers at Dr Annie Curtis’s Lab at RCSI in partnership with Prof Luke O’Neill’s Lab at Trinity College Dublin and was funded by Science Foundation Ireland.
Dr Curtis, Research Lecturer in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics at RCSI explained that “Macrophages are key immune cells in our bodies which produce this inflammatory response when we are injured or ill. What has become clear in recent years is that these cells react differently depending on the time of day that they face an infection or damage, or when we disrupt the body clock within these cells”.
Dr Jamie Early, first author on the study said “We have made a number of discoveries into the impact of the body clock in macrophages on inflammatory diseases such as asthma and multiple sclerosis. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms by which the body clock precisely controls the inflammatory response were still unclear. Our study shows that the central clock protein, BMAL1 regulates levels of the antioxidant response protein NRF2 to control a key inflammatory molecule called IL-1b from macrophages”
“The findings although at a preliminary stage, offers new insights into the behaviour of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease which are known to be altered by the body clock” added Dr Early.