If you’ve ever travelled abroad and lost a few hours of your day, you know how easy it is to upset your internal body clock.
Now researchers have found that cartilage cells in your joints also have a ‘body clock’ which switches genes on and off, which may be why osteoarthritis patients find the pain worse at certain times of day or night.
The researchers, from the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester, UK, also investigated what kind of behaviours affect the cartilage cells’ ‘body clocks’ and found that exercise, meals and warming/cooling of the joints were factors.
Looking at mice the researchers found that the ‘body clock function’ in older rodents was up to 50% weaker, therefore less effective, than in younger mice. This, they say, might help towards explaining why older people are more at risk of osteoarthritis.
To further investigate the role of the cartilage cells’ body clocks, the researchers then artificially controlled the mice’s natural body rhythm by mimicking changes of body temperature.
They increased the temperature by two degrees every 12 hours and discovered that after just three occasions the cells’ body clocks were working more efficiently. The benefits continued for five to seven days afterwards.
“By imposing a rhythm to boost the internal rhythm in cartilage, our data suggests the aged cartilage clock might be re-tuned,” says Dr Qing-Jun Meng, study author.
“This could be done using systemic approaches such as scheduled exercise, restricted meal times or by targeting the joint itself with scheduled warming and cooling. We believe imposing a rhythm could have a significant impact on the future management of joint diseases and with further study it could relieve sufferers’ symptoms.”
The team behind the research have been awarded a grant that will now allow them to investigate what causes the cells’ body clock disruption and how it relates to the severity of osteoarthritis symptoms. They also plan to look at ways in which medications could be used to reset the cells’ body clocks, potentially providing relief to patients.