The mechanism that controls the internal 24-hour clock of all forms of life from human cells to algae has been identified by scientists.
Not only does the research provide important insight into health-related problems linked to individuals with disrupted clocks – such as pilots and shift workers – it also indicates that the 24-hour circadian clock found in human cells is the same as that found in algae and dates back millions of years to early life on Earth.
Akhilesh Reddy, from the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study, said: “We know that clocks exist in all our cells; they’re hard-wired into the cell. Imagine what we’d be like without a clock to guide us through our days. The cell would be in the same position if it didn’t have a clock to coordinate its daily activities.
Andrew Millar of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: “This groundbreaking research shows that body clocks are ancient mechanisms that have stayed with us through a billion years of evolution. They must be far more important and sophisticated than we previously realised. More work is needed to determine how and why these clocks developed in people – and most likely all other living things on earth – and what role they play in controlling our bodies.”