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Microbes in Your Body May Have Jet Lag Too

alarm clocks

Image credit: Jean L. via Flickr

You have such experience that when you take a flight across time zones, your biological activities would be thrown out of sync with the time of day. In fact, there is kind of circadian clock in your gut microbes as. With disruption of their daily rhythms, it could cause to obesity as well as metabolic problems in your body, which has been released in the latest edition of Cell.

It is discovered from the newest studies that frequent flyers and night shift workers are prone to some problems such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes as well as cancer. However, even now, the association is not clearly known.

According to Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute, such findings help explain the result from the long-time and weird observation. That is why people whose day-night cycles are disturbed on a chronical basis tend to develop obesity and other metabolic complications because of repeated jet lag or shift work.

Based on the analysis of microbes discovered in fecal samples obtained from mice and humans at different times of the day, Elinav’s team concluded that rhythmic fluctuations in richness of gut microbes and oscillations in their biological activities would regulated by the circadian clock as well as usual  eating habits of the hosts where they are harbored.

In their experiment with healthy mice being caged in normal 12-hour, by changing light-dark cycles, the team had taken samples on every six hour basis for two complete days. In the period of the dark phase, the bacteria in these nocturnal mice busied themselves with nutrients digestion, repair of their DNA, and growing. And during the light phase microbes started with their housekeeping work, like detoxifying, sensing chemicals, and establishing the tails which could assist their movement.

However, as for gut bacteria in mutant mice whose inner clocks were disabled, they did not demonstrate the same fluctuations in responding to either light or dark cycles. But when researchers transplanted these bacteria into normal mice, the microbes started to exhibit normal rhythms within a week, it meant that the mouse clock did regulate that of the bacteria.

But in which way microbes in the gut is sure when it’s light out? When mice were exposed to various light-dark schedules and abnormal feeding habits for a day, the team found that the mice’s microbial communities had seen the loss of their rhythmic fluctuations and altered their composition as the matter of result. Surprisingly, a diet with high-fat would lead to gaining weight for jetlagged mice and at the same time, they would develop metabolic problems linked with diabetes as well.

In the similar case, two people travelling from Israel to the U.S. would alter the composition of their gut microbes, which was favorable to the growth of bacteria associated with to obesity and metabolic diseases. And scientists transplant these microbes into healthy mice; such rodents would gain weight and exhibited increased blood sugar. While as for the human participants, these levels turned back to normal as they were adjustable with time.

Image: Jean L. via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Source: Science, Eurekalert!

Journal reference: Thaiss, Christoph A., et al. “Transkingdom Control of Microbiota Diurnal Oscillations Promotes Metabolic Homeostasis.” Cell (2014).