Neuroscience News: Protein Discovery Linked to Circadian Clocks and Metabolism

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clockFor years, the details and inner workings of the body’s circadian clock – the biological internal timing device that directs the sleep cycles of virtually every living organism – have eluded scientists. But a recent discovery by researchers at the Gladstone Institute has linked a crucial protein to the circadian rhythm of human bodies – and how a disruption of its normal function can throw our metabolism completely out of whack.

Recent research emerging from the Gladstone Institute reveals that the production of a specific neurotrophin receptor (the p75NTR protein) fluctuates in sync with the body’s internal circadian clock. These rhythmic patterns, in turn, help regulate some of our most essential metabolic functions.

The links between p75NTR, metabolism, and circadian clocks came as a surprise to the neuroscience community, as the protein was initially thought to only be active in the human body’s nervous system. But further study discovered that the protein was actually active in many different cell types throughout the body, including liver and fat cells where it regulates glucose levels in the blood.

The study comes on the heels of several other recent discoveries linking the body’s internal timing mechanisms and metabolism. Fully understanding the correlation between things like metabolism, circadian clocks, and factors like the p75NTR protein are the first step towards helping people – like night shift workers and those suffering from fibromyalgia – whose internal clocks are chronically misaligned. People with persistent circadian rhythm issues are much more prone to autoimmune and metabolic conditions like cancer, lupus, type 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and obesity.

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