A recent study has revealed the importance of the body’s circadian rhythm in the aging process and the regenerative capacity of skin stem cells. According to researchers at the Center for Genomic Regulation, disruption of the circadian rhythm (the body’s natural biological clock) increases skin cells’ susceptibility to forming tumors and aging quicker due to the lack of cell regeneration. The study, which was popularized by ScienceDaily, shines light on the importance of having a balanced sleep schedule — something that, as a stressed college student, I seldom have the privilege to maintain.
It also raises the question of just how important having a balanced circadian rhythm is, and how adverse the absence of one can be. Because stem cells regulate cell replacement in tissues, they constantly reproduce cells to replenish those that have deteriorated through daily use. Correctly functioning stem cells are essential for supporting healthy tissue, including dermal tissue, during the life of an organism. Every day, skin cells are exposed to various harmful agents such as ultraviolet rays and pathogens.
The function of the skin is to protect from such dangers, while being an impermeable barrier that separates the inside of the body from the outside world. The study showed that when a circadian rhythm is interrupted, the stem cells lose their capacity to replace dead skin cells because the genes Bmal1 and Period 1/2 prevent the cells from knowing when to execute the appropriate functions. The circadian rhythm arranges all of our bodily functions to the natural cycles of day and night.
The process of skin rejuvenation — which is essential to the prevention of both aging and tumor development — is subject to such cycles of light and darkness. The circadian rhythm regulates the behavior of stem cells so that during peak hours of light exposure, cells have to ability to protect themselves from harmful radiation; during the evening and night, when the skin is no longer being exposed to possible damage, the cycle allows the cells to divide, regenerate, and replace damaged cells with healthy ones.
The study revealed that a disturbance in the circadian rhythm produces an increased number of latent cells and a decreased number of differentiated cells. Moreover, arrhythmia of the body’s biological clock increases the predisposition to tumor development because it increases the accumulation of mutations in DNA. The implications of this study are extensive: the circadian rhythm may play a more important role in the aging process than was thought before.
Other current research covered by ScienceDaily suggests that the circadian rhythm is also instrumental in muscular and cardiovascular health, which helps shed light on the importance of sleep and scheduling. I knew getting a good night’s sleep was essential to my well-being; however, I did not realize that not getting it could be harmful to the health of my skin or other organs. This study has certainly made me evaluate my schedule and even find ways to make it a more balanced one. After all, I do not want my body to rapidly age in college due to my lack of sleep.
Researchers at the Center for Genomic Regulation conducted the study on samples of skin stem cells from mice. ScienceDaily accurately and non-sensationally covered the study; it was essentially a retailing of the primary literature paper, which was found on the website of the Center for Genomic Regulation. The coverage of the study was clear and nonbiased, as the publisher is a scientific source. Because the study was not performed on skin stem cells of humans, there is room for speculation.
The role of the circadian rhythm may or may not play as significant a role in the processes of aging and skin rejuvenation as the study paints it out to be; however, the institution that conducted the study and publisher are credible, and the science suggests that it is correct. Though the studied skin cells may not have been human skin cells, the research was of high quality. Nonetheless, the research should be verified by using human skin stem cells, as there is room for confounding variables in any study.
This field, I am sure, is not going to be ignored in years to come. As long as society continues to be obsessed with youthful and beautiful appearances, scientists will continue to attempt to understand the aging process of skin cells, and will collaborate with other scientists to find ways to hinder the rate of aging. As stem cell research becomes increasingly popular, the study of skin stem cells will also play an important role in this field.
The article on ScienceDaily was clear and concise, allowing common readers to understand the processes of aging and skin rejuvenation. Studies such as this one give those readers hope that some day, a miracle anti-aging or skin-beautifying treatment can be produced. For that reason, the popular press covered the topic.
Center for Genomic Regulation. “Biological clock controls activation of skin stem cells. ” ScienceDaily. 10, Nov. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2011