Importance of biological clock underestimated, says Dutch scientists

Every day, a small area in our brain ensures that all the processes in our body function on time. But how does our biological clock work? Is medication more effective at night? What is the best time to open a drum with toxic substances so as to keep health risks to a minimum? Is shift work and jetlag unhealthy? In a nutshell, should we be more aware of our biological clock? The 7th edition of In Praise of Medicine will focus on these questions. The Erasmus MC public lecture, that is free of charge, will be held on Friday 5 October at Congress Center De Doelen in Rotterdam.

The biological clock plays a vital role in our body. It not only determines our sleep and waking patterns, but also ensures that almost all processes in our body, such as digestion, blood pressure and the functioning of the kidneys, are effectively adapted to each other and activated at the correct time of the day. This clock can also be found in the cells of our body which means that, depending on the time of day, our body is more sensitive or less sensitive to certain substances.

The speaker Bert van der Horst, Professor of Chronobiology and Health at Erasmus MC, will explain that the efficacy of drugs or the effect of toxic substances can be affected by the biological clock. The time at which mice are exposed to toxic substances, for example, can even mean the difference between life and death. Van der Horst: “This knowledge is important to be able to determine in the future the time at which an employee can keep health risks to a minimum when opening a drum with hazardous substances because the employee’s biological clock makes him/her less sensitive at that time. The information is also valuable in determining the time at which treatment would be most effective for a patient. Erasmus MC is unique in that it is starting the first Dutch study on the best time for patients to take medication for cancer.”

Guest speaker and chronobiologist Professor Till Roenneberg of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich will discuss the influence of ‘social jetlag’ on our biological clock and health. According to Roenneberg, people would be able to live a much healthier life if they were to listen to their biological clock. He wrote a book on this topic: Internal Time (the Dutch edition ‘Het innerlijk uurwerk, alles over ons bioritme’, will be published on 5 October and will be available after the lecture).

In Praise of Medicine is fully booked. As a result of the great interest in the lecture, it can also be followed live on Friday 5 October starting at 2:30 pm at www.erasmusmc.nl/lofdergeneeskunst or at any time thereafter. Latecomers and those not registered can watch the lecture on a large screen in another lecture room in De Doelen.

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