Autoimmune Diseases & Sleep Are More Connected Than We Thought

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goodsleep-slide-1Illustrated By Ammiel Mendoza.
New research out today in Science probes the underlying relationship between inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and sleep patterns.

Specifically, researchers looked at a type of T helper cell (specifically, called Th17) that lives in the gut and helps protect against bacterial and fungal inflections. Using a mouse model, researchers found that this particular type of T helper cell (remember, T-cells are involved in immune response) was influenced by a gene that is strongly connected to circadian clock rhythms. Basically, our sleep cycles, through a variety of genetic expressions, affect the production of these cells.

And, when the mice weren't given enough sleep or their sleep cycles were purposely disturbed, they produced way more of the Th17 cells. This type of overproduction could be the underlying reason for some autoimmune disorders — specifically, inflammatory bowel disease.

It's long been known that night workers suffer from a variety of symptoms that aren't well explained. This inflammatory response to abnormal sleeping habits could be at least part of that equation.

The research is especially important in helping to expand scientific research in an area that's often filled with nuance and confusion. Though it doesn't tell us the entire story, it does offer a glimpse into our wonderful, complicated bodies — and what can happen when things go awry. (Eureka Alert)