Researchers have found a link between variations in two genes that control our 24-hour biological clock and the risk of a person developing multiple sclerosis.
The study, “Association of circadian rhythm genes ARNTL/BMAL1 and CLOCK with multiple sclerosis,” was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Scientists know MS is less prevalent closer to the equator, such as in South America, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, than in regions far to the north or south of it. The far-flung areas include Canada, the northern United States, northern Europe, and southern Australia.
The reasons behind this geographical association are unclear, although scientists know that low vitamin D levels, which stem from less sunshine, are a risk factor for MS.
A team of researchers wondered if different geographical locations, with their light and temperature differences, could influence the risk of MS by affecting our biological clock.
This clock, which scientists call our circadian rhythm, is a crucial part of our physiology. It controls our sleeping and waking patterns, for example. And light and temperature play a major role in it.
Scientists say the clock runs our brain and organs, adjusting our hormones, behavior, cognition, metabolism and immune system to the time of day.
One measure of the circadian rhythm’s importance is that it exists not only in humans but in many living things.
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