Irish-led research delivers fresh insight on inflammation

Work on body clock may open up new options for treating asthma and heart disease

The timing mechanism in each human cell enables the body to anticipate and respond to the 24-hour external environment. File photograph: Getty Images

The timing mechanism in each human cell enables the body to anticipate and respond to the 24-hour external environment. File photograph: Getty Images

 

New insights into how the body clock controls inflammation have been revealed in research by scientists at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Trinity College Dublin.

Their work may open up fresh options for treating excess inflammation in conditions such as asthma, arthritis and heart disease. It may also shed light on why shift workers and others are more susceptible to these inflammatory conditions.

By understanding how the body clock controls the inflammatory response, we may be able to target these conditions at certain times of the day to have the most benefit, say the researchers.

The timing mechanism in each human cell enables the body to anticipate and respond to the 24-hour external environment. Inflammation is normally a protective process that enables the body to clear infection or damage. However, if left unchecked it can lead to disease.

This study, from researchers led by Dr Annie Curtis at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Prof Luke O’Neill at TCD, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which is a leading scientific journal.

“Macrophages are key immune cells in our bodies which produce this inflammatory response when we are injured or ill,” explained Dr Curtis, senior author of the research. “What has become clear in recent years is that these cells react differently depending on the time of day that they face an infection or damage, or when we disrupt the body clock within these cells”.

Molecular activity

Co-author Dr Jamie Early said: “We have made a number of discoveries into the impact of the body clock in macrophages on inflammatory diseases such as asthma and multiple sclerosis. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms by which the body clock precisely controls the inflammatory response were still unclear.

“The findings although at a preliminary stage, offers new insights into the behaviour of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease which are known to be altered by the body clock.”

The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and undertaken in collaboration with RCSI, TCD and the Broad Institute in Boston, USA.