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MU researchers identify how night-shift work causes internal clock confusion

Researchers have found a potential cause for metabolic changes during shift changes disrupting body clock alignment and raising the risk of health issues.

Overhead photo of a man sleeping in a bed.

Nov. 2, 2020

Night-shift workers face an increased risk of obesity and diabetes, but the underlying reason for that has been a mystery. Now, University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers have found a potential cause for metabolic changes during night-shift work that creates confusion between cells in the body and the central clock in the brain.

“The cells in your body do not adjust as quickly as the central clock in the brain to shifts in sleep patterns,” said David Gozal, the Marie M. and Harry L. Smith Endowed Chair of Child Health at the MU School of Medicine. “So when night-shift workers abruptly shift back and forth to daytime hours on the weekend, the cells in the body continue to send messages to each other through exosomes that lag behind the central clock. It creates a condition called ‘circadian misalignment,’ which is associated with an increased risk for cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses.”

Gozal believes using exosomes taken from the blood as a marker of circadian misalignment could play a key role in identifying treatments to prevent the long-term health complications of night-shift work.

Read more from the MU School of Medicine

 

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