Why disrupted body clocks trigger liver cancer

DRINKING too much and eating too much are both good ways of getting liver cancer. But there is a third. The disrupted circadian rhythms caused by working shifts or crossing time zones also seem to induce the disease. Precisely how and why meddling with day and night cycles has such a dire effect on the liver remains an enigma, but a study just published in Cancer Cell by Loning Fu and David Moore at the Baylor College of Medicine, in Texas, sheds some light on the matter.

Among the liver’s many jobs is making bile, a substance secreted into the intestine to break down the fats and oils in food. One of bile’s main components is bile acid, a derivative of cholesterol. Dr Fu and Dr Moore knew from their previous research that disrupting the circadian rhythms of mice causes the rodents’ livers to overproduce this substance. They also knew that liver cancer commonly appears in mice engineered to lack certain genes required for the management of day-night cycles. This led them to suspect a link between liver cancer and too much bile acid. To take a closer look, they set up an experiment.

Working with a team of colleagues, the two researchers…Continue reading

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