A new study explores the role of aging in mammalian circadian clocks (Image: Alison Saeng/Unsplash)

It is well known that the process of aging is associated with sleep and circadian functions, but we still lack a systematic understanding of the complex interplays between them. In a recent paper in Chaos, Yitong Huang (Northwestern University) and SFI’s Yuanzhao Zhang and Rosemary Braun (Northwestern University) take another look at mammalian circadian clocks and the effects aging has on them.

The authors build on previous work that tests the effects of jet lag through environmental cues like light exposure, feeding, and physical activity. They also built upon previously validated models to create a single mathematical model that can describe the hierarchical nature of the circadian system. In addition to a central clock, mammals have peripheral clocks that affect rhythm and respond to cues independently; aging causes more frequent disruptions in both the central and peripheral clocks.

The results from this paper suggest that circadian misalignment, or the disruption of the biological circadian rhythm, can be corrected with adequately timed food stimuli. The authors recommend that optimized meal schedules could help when trying to readjust circadian systems. “In the future, it would be exciting to test the predictions in experimental and clinical settings,” says Zhang. 

Read the paper "A minimal model of peripheral clocks reveals differential circadian re-entrainment in aging" in Chaos (September 2023). https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0157524