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Research identifies protein that suppresses inflammation at night

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A protein created by the body´s “biological clock” suppresses inflammation when you sleep at night, a new study shows.

The research, published in The FASEB Journal, suggests that the cryptochrome protein actively represses inflammatory pathways within the affected limbs during nighttime sleep. This makes inflammation symptoms, such as stiffness, seem worse when the effect wears off as you wake up.

The researchers say their findings present new opportunities for the development of drugs that may be used to treat inflammatory diseases and conditions, such as arthritis.

“By understanding how the biological clock regulates inflammation, we can begin to develop new treatments which might exploit this knowledge,” explained Dr Julie Gibbs from the University of Manchester. “Furthermore, by adapting the time of day at which current drug therapies are administered, we may be able to make them more effective.”

For the study, Gibbs and colleagues harvested cells called “fibroblast-like synoviocytes” from joint tissue of healthy mice. These cells are important in the pathology that underlies inflammatory arthritis.

According to The FASEB Journal, each of these cells keeps a 24-hour rhythm, and when this rhythm was disrupted by knocking out the cryptochrome gene there was an increased inflammatory response. This suggests that the cryptochrome gene product, the cryptochrome protein, has significant anti-inflammatory effects.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers administered drugs designed to activate the protein to determine if protection against inflammation could be achieved — and it was.

The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

Commenting on the team´s discovery, Dr Thoru Pederson, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, said:

“This study reminds us that inflammation, typically thought of as chronic and brittle, can, in fact, be nuanced — in this case, under the influence of the brain´s suprachiasmatic nucleus, which controls the body´s circadian physiology. The clinical implications are far-reaching.”