Insights into skeletal body clocks and exercise

The skeleton seems to have its own body clock – which makes regular timing of exercise a significant benefit, according to British scientists.

Researchers from Manchester University unveiled their findings in Nature Communications yesterday,

They aimed to explore different types of ‘body clock’ and how they are affected by the time of day and local signals such as timing of exercise.

In tests on mice, they found that daily patterns of movement “reset circadian clock phase and amplitude in cartilage and intervertebral disc tissues”.

This involves so-called “rhythmic genes” which trigger internal clock-changing pathways in cells.

Researcher Professor Qing-Jun Meng of the University of Manchester, UK, said: “Not only have we identified that misalignment between cartilage and intervertebral disc clocks and our central clock in the brain can occur through exercising at an inappropriate time, we have found the mechanism by which this happens and that skeletal clocks can resynchronise to daily patterns of physical activity.“

Co-author Professor Judith Hoyland added: “Age-related musculoskeletal decline – and its adverse consequences – is a major burden to individuals and can contribute to pain and loss of mobility.

“Importantly, we have identified a new clock mechanism underlying skeletal ageing, which could have far-reaching impacts on understanding frailty and designing more efficient treatment timing of exercise and physiotherapy to maintain good skeletal health and mobility.”

Dudek, M. et al. Mechanical loading and hyperosmolarity as a daily resetting cue for skeletal circadian clocks. Nature Communications 14 November 2023 doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-42056-1


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