Science Blog, Jan. 21, 2012
New research at Oregon State University provides evidence for the first time that disruption of circadian rhythms – the biological “clocks” found in many animals – can clearly cause accelerated neurodegeneration, loss of motor function and premature death.
The study was published in Neurobiology of Disease and done by researchers at OSU and Oregon Health and Science University. Prior to this, it wasn’t clear which came first – whether the disruption of biological clock mechanisms was the cause or the result of neurodegeneration.
The decline and loss of clock function may be just the beginning of a damaging, circular process, said Jadwiga Giebultowicz, an OSU professor of zoology, member of the OSU Center for Healthy Aging Research and project leader. “When the biological clock begins to fail, rhythms that regulate cell function and health get disrupted, and we now know that this predisposes the brain to neurodegeneration,” Giebultowicz said. “But that neurodegeneration, in turn, may cause more damage to the clock function.
“A healthy biological clock helps protect against this damage,” she said. “When the clock fails, the damage processes speed up.”