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Fundamental research

09 - 02 - 2018

Researching the biological clock to improve health

A study in baboon has shown that the variation in gene expression during the day in primates is very pronounced and should be taken into account for the prescription of most medical treatments.


Many of the genes that produce the body's proteins have a strong rhythmic activity during the day. But the data available so far are from rodents. However, these nocturnal animals have a daily biological rhythm different from that of humans, which makes the data difficult to transpose.


Researchers from Inserm in collaboration with colleagues in the USA thoroughly studied the rhythmicity of gene expression in a primate, the baboon Papio anubis.


Thus the transcriptome, the production of RNAs of more than 25,000 genes, from sixty-four tissues and organs of these diurnal primates was analysed every two hours for 24 hours. This very complex study started ten years ago and required two years of analysis.




It highlights that:

  • - two-thirds of the protein-producing genes have a strong rhythmic activity during the day and 82% of these genes are targets for current or future drugs
  • - the rhythm varies according to the tissues and the organs
  • - diurnal animals have different rhythms from nocturnal animals.


In conclusion, the biological clock can have a strong influence on the efficacy of treatments and the results of preclinical and clinical studies. It must be taken into account. The researchers are preparing an atlas to facilitate its inclusion into experimental setups.