The human body contains a master circadian clock (body clock) located in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN). The SCN is a tiny region located inside the brain’s hypothalamus and is responsible for regulating and running your “body clock”. Your body clock or circadian rhythm is what governs when you wake up, when you go to sleep and what hormones are released at specific times of the day. A disruptive master body clock will cause poor sleep and incorrect release or suppression of hormones which drives modern mismatch diseases such as dementia, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
It is now widely understood that every organ and even cell in our bodies contains a clock. These are called peripheral clocks. Peripheral clocks are responsible for running the function of that cell or organ and relaying the information back to the master clock. If the master clock is off beat or any of the peripheral clocks are not functioning properly then our bodies will not function properly, which leads to bad sleep and higher susceptibility to diseases of civilization.
Clock genes play a key role is clock adaptations in response to environmental stimuli. For example in a recent study a “normal” mouse was exposed to bright light during the night and was able to change its wake up time to compensate. The opposite was true for the mouse without the clock regulating genes present.
The genes identified have been named signal-regulating kinase 1,2, and 3 (Ask1, Ask2, Ask3). The names are not important but what is, is their ability to allow the human body to adapt to changes suddenly or overtime from their environment. Given the inability of the mutant mice to not synchronize their circadian rhythms with changes to their environment it shows how important these signalling genes are to maintaining homeostasis.
The head of the study has been quoted saying “Many researchers in this field have long suspected oxidative stress and circadian rhythms are somehow connected because of cycles of photosynthesis and DNA replication we see even in ancient organisms”
What these findings mean for the center of circadian research is that the origins of our body clock can be looked into further. Maybe our body clocks were created out of stress responses to our evolutionary environment which would be another reason why we need to keep our clocks maintained to this ancient cycle.