In PLOS Biology this week, you can read how two independent research teams have identified a new gene involved in circadian rhythms, and how we can improve the power of participatory medicine.
Circadian rhythms are biological processes which are self-perpetuating but also entrained to the local environment by external cues, and usually happen on a cycle of around 24 hours. These cycles are central to the lives of humans and other animals, for example in regulating sleeping and feeding patterns and processes such as hormone production and cell regeneration. Over the last few decades, scientists have identified a network of interconnected ‘clock genes’ involved in daily rhythms; however some critical components are still missing. This week in PLOS Biology two independent studies identify a new clock component; CHRONO. Ron Anafi, John Hogenesch and colleagues started their search by identifying candidates with five key features of known clock genes. Akihiro Goriki, Toru Takumi and co-authors performed a genome-wide analysis for genes that were the target of BMAL1, a known core component of the cellular clock mechanism. A link was found between CHRONO and the regulation of organism-wide stress responses, which will likely be a major future focus of future work, given the importance of this for human health. Also read more in the accompanying synopsis.
Also this week you can read a Perspective as part of our Public Engagement in Science Series. Author Barbara Prainsack discusses participatory medicine – for example web-based platforms such as CureTogether – where patients can pool information about their symptoms and treatments and compare with other similar patients. Prainsack argues that for true participatory medicine to work, public actors in the health domain should not dismiss these citizen-led initiatives and should get involved in order to help ensure they are run in a responsible and accountable manner.