Disruptions to the circadian rhythm can affect the growth of blood vessels in the body, thus causing illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer, according to a new study from Linköping University and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
In an article published in the scientific journal Cell Reports, it is demonstrated for the first time that disruption of the circadian rhythm immediately inhibits blood vessel growth in zebra fish embryos.
Professor Yihai Cao leads a research group that has demonstrated that the breaking point is the production of a very important signaling substance: vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The formation of this substance requires a normal circadian rhythm.
During experiments with hours-old zebra fish embryos, the researchers manipulated their circadian rhythm through exposing them to lighting conditions varying from constant darkness to constant light. The growth of blood vessels in the various groups was then studied. The results showed that exposure to constant light (1,800 lux) markedly impaired blood vessel growth; additionally, it affected the expression of genes that regulate the circadian clock.
"The results can definitely be translated into clinical circumstances. Individuals with disrupted circadian rhythms—for example, shift workers who work under artificial lights at night, people with sleeping disorders or a genetic predisposition—should be on guard against illnesses associated with disrupted blood vessel growth," says Lasse Dahl Jensen, researcher in cardiovascular physiology at Linköping University and lead writer of the article.
Such diseases include heart attack, stroke, chronic inflammation, and cancer. Disruptions in blood vessel growth can also affect fetal development, women’s reproductive cycles, and the healing of wounds.