Monday December 10, 2018
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Night Shifts, Jet Leg Disrupt Rhythm of Genes

A University of Surrey study has found that the daily rhythms of our genes are disrupted when sleep times shift

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Representational image. Pixabay
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For those who work in night shifts or miss on sleep owing to heavy air travel, it is time to set the clock right to get rhythm of your genes back in shape.

A University of Surrey study has found that the daily rhythms of our genes are disrupted when sleep times shift.

“This research may help us understand the negative health outcomes associated with shift work, jet lag and other conditions in which the rhythms of our genes are disrupted,” said professor Derk-Jan Dijk from the sleep research centre at University of Surrey, England.

Researchers placed 22 participants on a 28-hour day in a controlled environment without a natural light-dark cycle.

As a result, their sleep-wake cycle was delayed by four hours each day.

Genes are a part of DNA/RNA.
Genes- A segment of DNA. Pixabay

The team then collected blood samples to measure the participants’ rhythms of gene expression.

During this disruption of sleep timing, there was a six-fold reduction in the number of genes that displayed a circadian rhythm (internal body clock with 24-hour cycle), said the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Over 97 percent of rhythmic genes became out of sync with mistimed sleep and this really explains why we feel so bad during jet lag, or if we have to work irregular shifts,” said co-author Simon Archer from the school of biosciences and medicine.

Also Read: Genes Determining Hair Colour To Boost Cancer Research

The study also revealed which genes may be regulated by sleep-wake cycles and which are regulated by central body clocks.

This finding provides new clues about sleep’s function as separate from the circadian clock.

“The results also imply that sleep-wake schedules can be used to influence rhythmicity in many biological processes, which may be very relevant for conditions in which our body clocks are altered, such as in aging,” added professor Derk-Jan Dijk. (IANS)

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China Starts Investigation After Scientists Claims To Edit Genes In Babies

The Scientist said he began his work in the second half of 2017 and enrolled eight couples.

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China, gene
He Jiankui speaks during an interview at a laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong province. VOA

Chinese health and medical ethics authorities started an investigation on Monday into claims by a scientist who released videos on YouTube saying he had altered the genes of twins born earlier this month, creating the first gene edited babies.

The Southern University of Science and Technology in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, where the scientist, He Jiankui, holds an associate professorship, said it had been unaware of the research project and that He had been on leave without pay since February.

He Jiankui defended what he claimed to have achieved, saying he had performed the gene editing to help protect the babies from future infection with the AIDS virus.

c-section, postpartum depression, gene
A newborn, one of 12 babies born by C-section, cries inside an incubator at the Bunda Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 12, 2012. VOA

But his university said it was a “serious violation of academic ethics and standards” and scientists around the world condemned it as monstrous and dangerous.

The university issued a statement after He said in five videos posted on Monday that he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to edit the genes of twin girls.

China’s National Health Commission said it was “highly concerned” and had ordered provincial health officials “to immediately investigate and clarify the matter”.

“We have to be responsible for the people’s health and will act on this according to the law,” it said in a statement.

Shenzhen’s medical ethics committee said it was investigating the case. The Guangdong provincial health commission was also looking into it, according to Southern Metropolis Daily, a state media outlet.

China, genes
China’s Southern University of Science and Technology It said He is on unpaid leave until 2021. Pixabay

He said in one YouTube video that the editing process, which he called gene surgery, “worked safely as intended” and that the resulting twins were “as healthy as any other babies.” It was impossible to verify the claims as He did not provide any written documentation of his research.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a technology that allows scientists to essentially cut-and-paste DNA, raising hope of genetic fixes for disease. However, there are also concerns about its safety and ethics.

“If true, this experiment is monstrous,” said Julian Savulescu, a medical ethics specialist at Britain’s University of Oxford.

Kathy Niakan, an expert at the Francis Crick Institute in London, said: “If true…this would be a highly irresponsible, unethical and dangerous use of genome editing technology.”

China’s Southern University of Science and Technology It said He is on unpaid leave until 2021.

“Southern University of Science and Technology strictly requires scientific research to conform to national laws and regulations and to respect and comply with international academic ethics and standards,” it said.

Genes
He Jiankui defended what he claimed to have achieved, saying he had performed the gene editing to help protect the babies from future infection. Wikimedia Commons

Asked for his comment on the university’s statement, He said he had been on voluntary leave for several years to focus on his research, without specifying dates.

In the videos, He defended his work, saying in one: “I understand my work will be controversial, but I believe families need this technology. And I’m willing to take the criticism for them.”

Also Read: World’s First AI News Anchor Debuts From China

In an earlier email to Reuters, He said that he planned to share data about the trial at a scientific forum this week. He said he planned for it to also go “through the peer review process, and through a pre-print soon.” A pre-print is a publication of findings made before the research is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In an earlier telephone interview and emails with Reuters, He said he was aiming to bestow on the gene edited babies “lifetime protection” against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

He said he began his work in the second half of 2017 and enrolled eight couples. All of the potential fathers involved were HIV-positive. Five chose to implant embryos, including the parents of the twin girls, identified only by the pseudonyms Mark and Grace. The babies’ names are Lulu and Nana, He said in one video. (VOA)