Working around the clock comes with benefits, but also costs on our health, biologists at Virginia Tech warn.
According to researchers, a protein responsible for bodys circadian rhythm is also in charge of protecting the body from developing sporadic forms of cancer.
The protein, known as human period 2, has impaired function in the cell when environmental factors, including sleep cycle disruption, are altered, said Carla Finkielstein, an associate professor of biological sciences at Virginia Tech.
The study was published in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell.
Tetsuya Gotoh, research scientist in Finkielsteins lab, and led a team of researches that found that in this original state, the human period 2 protein interacts directly with tumor suppressor proteins in cells to control cell division.
When (human period 2 protein) is non-functional because it is either mutated or somehow modified, then, it is unable to do its job and prevent the cells from dividing at certain times of the day, Gotoh said.This is particularly a problem in cases where tumour suppressor genes are mutated as it happens in more than 80 per cent of all cancer cases.
Researchers noticed the connection when they studied several human and animal tumor cells. When human period 2 gene was repressed, cells had abnormal circadian rhythmicity and underwent a malignant transformation.
Currently, researchers work with patients to identify those risking to develop cancer as a result of malfunctioning of the protein and the gene that produces it. It is hoped that result may promote development of new and more effective prevention strategies for populations at risk stemming from circadian disruption, such as people working the night shift.
These findings highlight the complexity of the circadian-controlled network and emphasize its physiological relevance for human health and for new therapeutic interventions, Finkielstein said.