Dr Ke Ma, MD, PhD, from the Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston, Texas is involved in the ongoing exploration of the relationship between metabolism and circadian rhythms.
On June 22, 2013, at the 73rd American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago, IL Ma presented early findings on her work.
Animals run on circadian rhythms during the year, and also during a 24 hour period. Sleep disturbance in both men and women has been linked to loss of melatonin, increases in oestrogen and increased breast and prostate cancer rates, for example.
There is growing evidence that circadian disruptions can also contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
She has found a link between circadian rhythms and the early stages of brown fat cell development.
Brown fat is the “good” type of fat, densely populated with power stations, or mitochondria, which burn energy to generate heat and maintain body temperature.
Studies suggest that individuals with more brown fat tend to have lower BMI and may be protected against weight gain. But Dr. Ma has discovered that a gene that a gene involved in the clock rhythm, called Bmal1, is linked to the development of greater amounts of brown fat and burned more energy.