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Why do cuts heal better during the day than at night

Credits : iStock

New research suggests that physical cuts heal a lot quicker if you hurt yourself during the day than at night.  It is believed to be the result of the circadian rhythm of our cells. 

We can speed up the healing process of our cut if by relying on the circadian rhythm of our cells. A recent study led by researchers from the University of Cambridge, suggest that skin cells which help to rebuild damaged tissue – also called fibroblast – react differently depending on the time of the day.  Details of the study are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The importance of the biological clock in the healing process

When you cut yourself, fibroblast cells are the first to get involved.  They are a bit like our body’s emergency services or paramedics when you have a physical injury.   These cells are dispatched to the effected area and produce collagen which allows the cells to rebuild the the damaged tissue.  However for them to be able to do this, these cells need a protein called actin.  In other words, the less actin there is the longer it will take for the cut to heal. But what manages levels of actin?  Well it is the circadian rhythm of our cells!

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Physical injuries heal 2 times quicker during the day than at night Credits : Wikimedia Commons

By examining fibroblast cultures in Perti dishes, researchers realised that by stimulating the injuries by simulating conditions which imitate the evening, cuts healed two times slower than those that were simulated with during the day conditions. The experiment carried out on mice also showed similar results.

In both cells and mice, we can reset the tissue healing response by tricking the cells into thinking it’s a different time of day – such as by turning the lights on at night and off at different times of day for the mice, or using body clock-altering drugs on cells in the lab.” explained the molecular biologist John O’ Neil the main author of the study.

Looking at effective treatment

In humans, the same phenomenon also applies to burns. Night wounds normally take about 60% longer to heal than burns during the day. This is a crucial discovery as it could allow the medical profession to maximize the healing performance of tissues based on the simple circadian rhythm.
Not only could novel drug targets be identified, but also the effectiveness of established therapies might be increased through changing what time of day they are given; concludes John Blaikley, a clinical respiratory clinician at the University of Manchester and co-author of the study.


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