Alignment of mother, baby body clocks could prevent chronic diseases

The body has an internal clock called circadian rhythm that regulates sleepiness over a 24-hour period.

May 14, 2018 18:36
1 minute read.
A MOTHER hugs her baby soon after giving birth.

A MOTHER hugs her baby soon after giving birth.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

When the body clock of a baby “ticks” in step with that of the mother, better maternal care may result and significantly reduce the likelihood of heart disease and other illness in the offspring, according to research on lab rats conducted by Czech scientists.

The mother-offspring interaction is very important for health later in adulthood, Lucie Olejníkova, Lenka Polidarova, Michal Behuliak, Martin Sladek and Alena Sumova of the Czech Academy of Sciences wrote in The Journal of Physiology.

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They wrote that theirs was the first study to provide compelling evidence that by significantly reducing abnormalities in the circadian rhythm of a mother, the risk of chronic disease developing in offspring is minimized. It thus may be possible to develop therapies for serious lifestyle-related diseases, such as heart disease and obesity, they suggested.

The body has an internal clock called circadian rhythm that regulates sleepiness over a 24-hour period; the circadian system is important so that processes in our body are synchronized with when it is light or dark outside. Disturbances in these mechanisms can lead to poor health, such as heart disease.

The study, conducted at the academy’s physiology institute, was performed in two strains of laboratory rats in which the maternal care and synchrony of their circadian clocks with external day/night cycle differed. The effect of maternal care provided by the genetic mother of these pups was compared with maternal care of a foster mother. The pups either had an aberrant circadian system and were genetically determined to develop disease in adulthood or they were healthy controls.

The researchers tested the effect of maternal care on the body clock before and just after weaning and on their activity rhythms, heart rate and blood pressure in adulthood. Proper maternal care provided to pups genetically predisposed to develop disease led to improvement of their clock function and abolished the rise in their heart rate in adulthood.

Sumova noted that as the results “point to a real possibility” of minimizing abnormalities in the offspring’s body clock and therefore in progression of disease, “our future research will be directed at understanding in more detail how an aberrant circadian system contributes to the progression of disease. We believe that this research is worth future explorations, as it may provide novel therapies for serious life-style-related diseases in humans.”

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