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Tick Tock, Scientific Research on Our Genetic Clock

Sherman Tang on January 10, 2013
Tick-Tock - Scientific Research on your genetic clock

Scientific research in circadian rhythm has determined that our genes can quite accurately predict the time of our death due to natural causes. This discovery gives a deeper meaning to “carpe diem” as now you can better plan your adventures before your body says it’s time to croak.

A group of scientists, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), identified a single nucleotide difference (Adenine base vs. Guanine base) that generates particular genotypes, A-A, A-G, or G-G, that affect the sleep-wake patterns of individuals. Individuals with both Adenine bases are early risers while those with both Guanine bases are more active later in the day and people with the Adenine-Guanine pair generally fit between the two extremes.

According to the investigators, this genetic variant can affect other physiological processes, such as cell death, as they all virtually have a circadian rhythm. In their study of the circadian rhythm of death, it was determined that individuals with the A-A or A-G genotype died in the morning, an average time of death about 11 am, whereas individuals with the G-G genotype had an average time of death of about 6pm.

Although additional research would still need to be done to better understand the mechanism of how gene variants can influence the body’s biological clock, it’s hoped that this finding could eventually bring forth solutions to optimize time management and efficiency (e.g. therapies for jet lag or fatigue from shift work).

If genes can predict when our lives will expire and perhaps the vocation where we’d be best fit, it’s only a matter of time when we can identify what other aspects of our lives are predetermined in our genetic framework (e.g. perhaps shed light on what was once believed to be due to cultural and environmental changes). In any case, our genetic clock is ticking and we desperately need further scientific research into this and many other aspects to seize the day.

  1. Read the full study, “A Common Polymorphism Near PER1 and the Timing of Human Behavioral Rhythms”, published in the journal, Annals of Neurology.