FRIDAY, Oct. 9, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- A strong link exists between the body's biological clock and blood sugar control, say U.S. researchers who conducted lab experiments on mouse and human stem cells, as well as genetically engineered mice.
"The most surprising part of our findings is that our internal biologic rhythms are embedded directly into another pathway, one that is essential to regulate metabolism," senior author Dr. Brian Feldman, an assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
The researchers found that daily fluctuations in hormones called glucocorticoids synchronize the biological clock as part of the mechanism for regulating blood sugar levels. The finding may help lead to new ways to control diabetics' blood sugar levels and may improve understanding of why night-shift workers are at risk for obesity and diabetes.
The research may also help find ways to reduce the disabling side effects of glucocorticoid drugs such as prednisone, an immune system-suppressing medication used to treat severe asthma, cancer and other conditions. Side effects include weight gain, poor blood sugar regulation and diabetes.
"Some very simple modifications in how we use glucocorticoids may change whether these drugs cause diabetes," Feldman said. For example, giving these drugs in a pattern that matches the body's daily rhythms (which peak early in the morning) might help reduce the risk of diabetes.
The study appeared online in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For more on the body's circadian, or daily, rhythms, see the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences.