Wake-up call: scientists investigate how cells in the eye reset internal clocks

Researchers have investigated the cellular mechanisms that influence circadian rhythms


Scientists have explored the role of a light-sensitive retinal protein in the regulation of circadian rhythms.

The work, which was published in Cell Reports, could lead to new approaches for targeting the maladaptive circadian rhythms found in insomnia and those affected by artificial illumination.

Researchers from the Salk Institute used molecular tools to turn on the production of melanopsin in retinal cells.

Melanopsin plays an important role in synchronising the internal clock and after 10 minutes of bright light suppresses the hormone melatonin, which helps to regulate sleep.

They found that proteins called arrestins are necessary for melanopsin to continue responding to bright light. Arrestin helps melanopsin to regenerate in the retinal cells.

Professor Satchin Panda, from Salk Institute, said that modern life involves high levels of exposure to artificial light.

“This lifestyle causes disruptions to our circadian rhythms and had deleterious consequences on health,” he said.

This view is in contrast to recent research from University of Oxford, which downplayed the relationship between devices and altered sleep patterns among children.