Jobs with unsocial working hours should come with a serious health warning as nightshift workers face statistically higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and sleeping difficulties. Humans aren’t nocturnal and disruptions to our circadian rhythm, which regulates the cycle of sleep and wakefulness, can be debilitating. Anyone who’s experienced jetlag will confirm that our stubborn body clocks make us suffer when we try to shoehorn them into new time zones. It’s been known since the 1970s that a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) – bright spots middle bottom in this cross-section from a mouse – controls our sleep cycle. But what hasn’t been known until now is that the cycle could all be due to a single protein found in the SCN, called neuromedin, that brain cells use to communicate. The discovery gives scientists a new target to aim for when developing future treatments for sleep disorders.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.