Given all of this, it’s no surprise that tools to rewire our circadian rhythms are being sought. Some people swear by melatonin or light therapy, where you can influence your rhythm by changing the timing of your meals and sleep. But scientists are looking for drugs that can directly target our molecular clock.
Take KL001 as an example. This compound affects a protein called CRY. Clock genes can turn on the production of CRY, and high levels of the protein can turn clock genes off.
KL001 works to maintain high levels of the CRY protein, which affects the length of the circadian cycle. This has a knock-on effect on genes in the liver that are also involved in circadian rhythms. It even controls how liver cells make glucose, Based on studies of cells in petri dishesIn theory, a drug like this could help limit the effects of shift work on metabolic health and possibly reduce the risk of diabetes.
Unfortunately, we may be some way away from being able to do this in humans. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a tantalizing idea worth investigating. In the meantime, we may be able to tailor existing treatments to people based on their individual circadian rhythms.
While we all roughly follow the 24-hour cycle of day and night, there are differences. It is thought that people tend to fall into a “chronotype,” which roughly determines when they wake up, feel alert, and fall asleep. Basically, you are either a morning person or a late riser. If we can find ways to more accurately determine how a person spends their day on a molecular level, we might be able to calculate the best time to deliver medicine or perform surgery, some researchers say.
Considering how long some of these ideas have been around, it’s a bit disappointing that we haven’t made more progress. But it’s an important area of research. We’ve probably all experienced the effects of circadian rhythm dysregulation. Jet lag can be brutal. Working late can leave you feeling tired and groggy the next day. We know staring at screens at night isn’t good for us, but how many of us can honestly say we don’t check our phones last thing at night or first thing in the morning?
We already know we should turn off our phones as bedtime approaches and avoid artificial light at night. Going to bed on time and getting enough sleep is another very obvious way to maintain good circadian rhythm health. At least it happens to be the best time of year to make resolutions…
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