By James McIntosh, Medical News Today, Aug 3, 2015 – In a new mouse study, scientists have discovered the gene that controls the body clock, and that faults in this gene can effectively “short circuit” circadian rhythms.
The gene in question, zinc finger homeobox 3 (Zfhx3), is highly active in the hypothalamus – an area of the brain that is responsible for the production of several important hormones.
Published in Cell, the study’s findings could explain why the body clock remains so consistent and why the irregular hours of shift work can have such a negative effect on employees’ health.
Previously, Medical News Today ran a Spotlight investigating the impact of shift work on health, examining how disruption to the body clock can cause sleep problems and potentially increase the prevalence of certain diseases.
“We’ve known for some time that upsetting the body clock isn’t good for us but this study takes us a lot closer to understanding the mechanism of that clock,” states study co-author Dr. Michael Hastings, a researcher at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK.