Scientists believe that the biological clock of circadian rhythms in humans, animals and plants is controlled by a complex network of genes that work together. A new study claims to have found a specific set of genes called “clock genes”, a new step in this field.
The study uses a careful statistical model to find multiple genes associated with circadian rhythms, categorizing them as “”clock genes. The study argues that it is these genes that cooperate with each other by causing some people to get up early and work efficiently; others, however, are very spirited at night and work late.
One of the researchers, Rongling Wu, head of the Center for Statistical Genetics at Pennsylvania State University, said, “If we identify the owl gene, we can develop drugs to activate the gene, so even early birds can change their habits to become owls.”
Of course the important thing is that this research will hopefully help some people with circadian rhythm disorders to improve their routine. Depression, anxiety, weight gain, and cardiovascular disease have all been linked to circadian rhythm disorders.
In addition, understanding how biological clock genes work can be helpful in agriculture. For example, the growth process of wheat seems to lag in the middle of the day, and if their genes could be changed so that they keep growing throughout the day, farmers would get a faster harvest. Some crops don’t grow well in shorter, colder climates, and by modifying their genes they can adapt to a wider range of climatic conditions.
The researchers admit that more exploration is needed to understand the workings of the entire biological clock system. If we can activate the right genes, we can use time efficiently and increase yields,” said Yung-Ling Wu. But we need the collaboration of experts from various fields to really understand such a complex biological clock system.”
The study was published May 4 in Applied Physics Reviews.