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Non-traditional hours may chronically misalign circadian clock, lead to higher rates of kidney disruption and injury

Rockville, Md. (March 16, 2021)—A disruption to organ rhythms caused by shift work is a key factor in injury-induced disease development, according to a new research article published in the America Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology. Scientists mimicked a shift work schedule in rats and found it not only led to a slowdown in rhythmic flow of the renal system, but also contributed to increased detection of kidney injury in their urine. This result indicates a possible relationship between rhythmic kidney function and renal damage. The paper has been chosen as an APSselect article for March.

“…this study demonstrates the relationship between organ rhythms and injury, revealing an organ-specific effect associated with long-term disruption of organ processes and a potential underlying cause for
diseases common amongst shift workers.”

Non-traditional shift work schedules—hours outside the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday—have long been associated with multiple health disorders. More than 15 million Americans work a shift work schedule, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, there has been no specific link identified between shift work and diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

The researchers’ findings are a “big deal,” said study co-author Atlantis Hill, PhD, of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. “While there are many factors that contribute to the increased health risks associated with shift work, this study demonstrates the relationship between organ rhythms and injury, revealing an organ-specific effect associated with long-term disruption of organ processes and a potential underlying cause for diseases common amongst shift workers.” Hill said the goal is that her team’s findings will lead to targeted treatments and policies to prevent diseases prevalent in people who are employed on a shift work schedule.

Read the full article, “Environmental circadian disruption suppresses rhythms in kidney function and accelerates excretion of renal injury markers in urine of male hypertensive rats.” It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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