A study by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the United States has identified two cellular switches in our biological clock that could be useful for future diabetes therapies.
People such as shift workers who have different cycles of waking and sleeping are known to face a greater likelihood of developing diabetes, so the researchers have targeted how the biological clock works for drugs that might alter the circadian rhythms.
The scientists, whose work was reported in Nature, hope that the switches, REV-ERBa and REV-ERBß, found to be key for proper sleeping and eating patterns and for metabolising nutrients from food, could lead to new drugs that treat sleep disorders and metabolic disorders such as diabetes. The gears were identified on the nucleus of mouse cells, and suggest a strong connection between circadian rhythms and metabolism.
They developed mice in which they were able to turn off both REV-ERBa and ß genes in the liver by giving them an oestrogen derivative called tamoxifen. By turning off these receptors, their biological clocks couldn’t maintain a natural functioning in the mice and they also had higher levels of fat and sugar in their blood, common for people with metabolic disorders.
Study leader, Ronald M. Evans, said “Nuclear receptors can be targeted with drugs, which suggests we might be able to target REV-ERBa and ß to treat disorders of sleep and metabolism.”

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