It’s half the battle waking up. Part of you dreads another eight hours of work, while the other part is simply sore, or ‘stiff to the bones’.
But you relaxed the night before, and have been sleeping for over six hours. What makes your body feel so rigid in the morning?
New research published in The FASEB Journal claims a protein created by the body’s “biological clock” is the cause: the cryptochrome protein. This protein actively represses inflammatory pathways in the limbs while you sleep, which causes the body to stiffen up.
Interestingly, these proven anti-inflammatory effects have doctors seeing the potential of cryptochrome as more than an answer to the question, ‘why do we wake up stiff?’ Researchers believe this opens the door for new opportunities to develop drugs to combat inflammatory diseases and conditions like arthritis.
“By understanding how the biological clock regulates inflammation, we can begin to develop new treatments, which might exploit this knowledge,” says Julie Gibbs, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work and arthritis research at the Centre for Endocrinology and Diabetes at the Institute of Human Development at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.
“Furthermore, by adapting the time of day at which current drug therapies are administered, we may be able to make them more effective.”
Gibbs and her team came across the protein in an experiment where cells were taken from joint tissue in healthy mice and humans. The cells, or “fibroblast-like synoviocytes,” are critical in the pathology that underlies inflammatory arthritis. Each cell keeps a 24-hour rhythm, and when the cryptochrome protein was removed, the rhythm was thrown out of sync, resulting in increased inflammation.
This hinted to the researchers that the protein indeed carries potent anti-inflammatory effects. To confirm the hypothesis, the researchers gave drugs to subjects which would activate the protein. If their theory was correct, then the protein would show its ability to protect against inflammation – and it did.
“This study reminds us that inflammation, typically thought of as chronic and brittle, can, in fact, be nuanced–In this case, under the influence of the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, which controls the body’s circadian physiology,” said Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., and Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
“The clinical implications are far-reaching.”