Washington: A new protein responsible for regulating the body's sleep cycle, or circadian rhythm, also protects the body from developing sporadic forms of cancers, new research has found.
Thus, people who work round-the-clock, could in fact be setting themselves back.
"The protein, known as human period 2, has impaired function in the cell when environmental factors, including sleep cycle disruption, are altered," said Carla Finkielstein from College of Science, Virginia Tech.
The new human period 2 protein if unaltered directly interacts with tumour suppressor proteins in cells to control cell division.
"When (human period 2 protein) is non-functional because it is either mutated or somehow modified, then, it is unable to do its job and prevent the cells from dividing at certain times of the day," said Tetsuya Gotoh, research scientist, College of Science, Virginia Tech.
"This is particularly a problem in cases where tumour suppressor genes are mutated as it happens in over 80 percent of all cancer cases," said Gotoh.
By studying human and animal tumour cells, the team found that repressing the human period 2 gene led to both abnormal circadian rhythmicity and a malignant transformation.
Now, researchers are trying to find out if the malfunctioning of the protein and the gene that produces it leads to cancer.
The results of these studies will help develop new, more effective prevention strategies for people at risk due to circadian disruption, such as women working in night shifts.
"These findings highlight the complexity of the circadian-controlled network and emphasize its physiological relevance for human health and for new therapeutic interventions," said Finkielstein.
The study appeared in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell.