New Protein Found that Helps Repress Inflammation During Sleep

A new study published in the online source, The FASEB Journal, has found that the body’s biological clock or circadian rhythm creates a protein that can actively repress pro-inflammatory markers and pathways within the extremities or parts of the body during sleep.  The protein is called CRYPTOCHROM and is proven to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body’s cultured cells.

This finding offers scientists new ways and opportunities to develop improved forms of treatments with medications that could be used in the care plans of chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis and asthma.

Dr. Julie Gibbs, Ph.D., one of the lead researchers of this study, as well as a fellow at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom Centre for Endocrinology and Diabetes at the Institute of Human Development, has much to say on the study findings.  She tells us that if we could understand inflammation by focusing on how the biological clock affects it, then there is a possibility and opportunity to make new and better treatments that would exploit the knowledge.  Dr. Gibbs’ focus is on arthritis research in the UK.

Additionally, Gibbs notes, this knowledge could help physicians adapt medication therapies to the time of day that the drugs are administered to achieve maximum benefit and make them more effective for the patient.

This discovery was made through a diligent harvesting process.  Dr. Gibbs and the rest of the research team obtained and harvested the joint tissue cells from either humans and/or mice.  The cells were called fibroblast-like synoviocytes.  These are vital in the pathological role they play in inflammatory arthritis.

These cells keep a 24-hour rhythm to them, and a disruption in this rhythm showed an increased inflammatory response.  The rhythm disruption came from taking out the cryptochrome gene.  This is indicative that the gene product, or the CRYPTOCHROME protein, has excellent anti-inflammatory components.  Researchers tested this hypothesis.  They gave medications to human subjects, which were designed to activate the CRYPTOCHROME protein, to see if there was protection against an inflammatory response.  The results showed that there was.

This research is a reminder that inflammation, especially those conditions that are considered brittle and chronic, can actually be nuanced, Dr. Thoru Pederson, Ph.D. and Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal stated.  In this study, it is clear that the changes and effects happened under the influence of the brain’s SCN, or suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is responsible for the physiology and functioning of the body’s circadian rhythm or the biological clock that controls our sleep.

While further studies will likely be done in this field with the CRYPTOCHROME protein, these current findings are far-reaching and likely to be helpful in the development of new treatment regimens for chronic inflammatory conditions.


 Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.

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