A group of researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis announced that they have identified a type of immune cell that performs a task in the intestine to “preserve” time.
In fact, congenital type 3 lymphocytes (ILC3) are responsible for maintaining a normal and healthy bowel, even if it is subject to irregular life rhythms caused by, for example, sleep disturbances, irregular digestive rhythms or eating disorders. In the study published in Science Immunology, researchers explain why circadian rhythm disruptions are associated with intestinal problems.
Marco Colonna, senior author of the study: “It has become increasingly clear that interruptions to circadian rhythms so common in modern life – shift work, jet lag, chronic sleep deprivation – have harmful effects on human health, but we still don’t know much about how exactly sleep disturbances cause these problems. What we have discovered is that circadian rhythms directly affect the function of immune cells in the gut, which may help explain some of the health problems we see, such as inflammatory bowel diseases and metabolic syndromes.”
These special cells maintain this balance by strengthening a kind of barrier between the billions of bacteria that live in the human gut and the cells that make up the gut itself. They also produce immune cells that prevent the immune system from overreacting to certain microbes or harmless food particles. This is particularly important in the fight against pathogenic bacteria.
The study was conducted by Qianli Wang, lead author, and Michelle Robinette, second author, both students in the Colonna laboratory at the time of research.
“I think it is fair to say that ILC3 is the basis for regulating the circadian rhythm and that some important circadian genes are crucial for the development and functioning of ILC3 cells,” reports Wang in the press release that accompanies the research.
Colonna herself believes that the circadian rhythms of intestinal cells should also be taken into account in pharmacological therapies or nutritional interventions.
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