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Disruption of biological clocks causes neurodegeneration, early death
Date:1/10/2012

CORVALLIS, Ore. New research at Oregon State University provides evidence for the first time that disruption of circadian rhythms the biological "clocks" found in many animals can clearly cause accelerated neurodegeneration, loss of motor function and premature death.

The study was published in Neurobiology of Disease and done by researchers at OSU and Oregon Health and Science University. Prior to this, it wasn't clear which came first - whether the disruption of biological clock mechanisms was the cause or the result of neurodegeneration.

"In these experiments, we showed through both environmental and genetic approaches that disrupting the biological clock accelerated these health problems," said Kuntol Rakshit, an OSU graduate fellow.

"There's a great deal of interest right now in studies on circadian rhythms, as we learn more about the range of problems that can result when they are disrupted," Rakshit said. "Ultimately we hope that this research will be taken from the laboratory to the bedside."

These studies were done with fruit flies, but the OSU scientists said previous research has indicated there are close parallels between them and humans. Some of the genes regulating circadian rhythms in flies are so important that they have been preserved through millions of years of separate evolution and still do the same thing in humans.

The biological clock, in humans and many other animals, is a complex genetic mechanism tuned to the 24-hour day and regular cycles of light, dark and sleep. It influences a wide range of biological processes, from fertility to hormone production, feeding patterns, DNA repair, sleep, stress reactions, even the effectiveness of medications. In humans, researchers have found strong correlations between disrupted clock mechanisms, aging, and neurologic diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease.

The fruit flies used in this research carried two mutations, one
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Contact: Jadwiga Giebultowicz
giebultj@science.oregonstate.edu
541-737-5530
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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