This Simple Blood Test Will Reveal Whether You're An Early Bird Or A Night Owl

Monday, 17 September 2018 - 11:21AM
Genetic Engineering
Medical Tech
Monday, 17 September 2018 - 11:21AM
This Simple Blood Test Will Reveal Whether You're An Early Bird Or A Night Owl
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When most people hear the words "biological clock" they think of the push for someone to settle down and start a family before it's too late, but there's more to it than that. There is obviously no physical clock in your body (if there is, you should seek medical attention), but there is a system that controls your circadian rhythm and affects both sleep cycles and energy levels. According to a new study, there is a way to determine what time your body's clock is set to, and all it requires is a simple blood test.

A team of scientists developed an algorithm called TimeSignature, which interprets circadian time based on gene expression. The old method of determining circadian rhythms required blood draws from subjects once every two hours and recording which genes were higher and which were lower throughout the day. Through machine-learning, the researchers were able to reduce the number of blood draws down to two, which means less strain on the patient and less work for the medical professionals. "This is a much more precise and sophisticated measurement than identifying whether you are a morning lark or a night owl," said assistant professor of Preventive Medicine (Biostatistics) at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Rosemary Braun. "We can assess a person's biological clock to within 1.5 hours." Braun is also the lead author of the study, which was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Understanding one's internal clock is important – being out of your own natural sync can cause serious health problems. "This is really an integral part of personalized medicine," said co-author and neurology professor Phyllis Zee. "So many drugs have optimal times for dosing. Knowing what time it is in your body is critical to getting the most effective benefits. The best time for you to take the blood pressure drug or the chemotherapy or radiation may be different from somebody else."

Coauthor Ravi Allada adds, "We know if you have disruption of your internal clock, it can predispose you to a range of diseases ... Virtually every tissue and organ system are governed by circadian rhythm...before we didn't have a clinically feasible way of assessing the clock in healthy people and people with disease. Now we can see if a disrupted clock correlates with various diseases and, more importantly, if it can predict who is going to get sick."

Most of us have felt out of sync at some point, but having a way to tell just how misaligned our bodies are could go a long way in correcting the problem – and, potentially, saving lives.
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