Transforming larks into owls, or vice versa, is now possible: those who perform at their best in the early hours of the morning could, for example, become a night owl thanks to the discovery of the genes that control the biological clock that dictates circadian rhythms, such as those of sleep and wakefulness, or hunger.
The research is published in the Applied Physics Reviews by the Pennsylvania State University group led by Rongling Wu.
Having identified the clock genes now allows them to be manipulated, opening the way to the possibility of controlling disorders related to the malfunctioning of the biological clock, such as depression, anxiety states, cardiovascular diseases and obesity.
Controlling circadian rhythms is not a single DNA sequence, but a complex network of genes.
To identify all the elements of this network, the scholars used a statistical model.
The goal is, in fact, to understand how these genes work together to make some organisms, including humans, more active in the early morning and others in the middle of the night.
For Wu, “Circadian rhythms are generally thought of as something that concerns humans, but plants and animals also have them. A better understanding of the gene-clock network that regulates its functioning - he concludes - could, for example, help improve agricultural production in areas where environmental conditions, for temperatures and hours of lighting, are unfavorable ”.