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It's about time: Disrupted internal clocks play role in disease
Date:7/1/2013

Thirty percent of severe alcoholics develop liver disease, but scientists have not been able to explain why only a subset is at risk. A research team from Northwestern University and Rush University Medical Center now has a possible explanation: disrupted sleep and circadian rhythms can push those vulnerable over the edge to disease.

The team studied mice that essentially were experiencing what shift workers or people with jet lag suffer: their internal clocks were out of sync with the natural light-dark cycle. Another group of mice had circadian disruption due to a faulty gene. Both groups were fed a diet without alcohol and next with alcohol, and the team then examined the physiological effects.

The researchers found the combination of circadian rhythm disruption and alcohol is a destructive double hit that can lead to alcoholic liver disease.

The study was published last month by the journal PLOS ONE.

"Circadian disruption appears to be a previously unrecognized risk factor underlying the susceptibility to or development of alcoholic liver disease," said Fred W. Turek, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Biology at Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and one of the senior authors of the paper.

"What we and many other investigators are doing is bringing time to medicine for the diagnosis and treatment of disease," Turek said. "We call it circadian medicine, and it will be transformative. Medicine will change a great deal, similar to the way physics changed when Einstein brought time to physics."

A number of years ago, Ali Keshavarzian, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Rush University Medical Center who has worked with and studied patients with gastrointestinal and liver diseases, had a hunch disrupted circadian rhythms could be a contributing factor to the disease.

Keshavarzian had noticed that some patients with inflammatory bowel disease (inflammation in the
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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