Do you ever feel like your body’s internal clock doesn’t match up with the real-world clock? For example, night owls could look at the clock on their nightstand and see midnight, but their body’s clock says it’s more like 8 p.m. This misalignment often results in hours of lost sleep, which can cause a whole host of other health issues. Now, researchers at Northwestern University have created a test that could potentially tell you what time your cells are operating on.
According to a September 2018 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, researchers have constructed a new blood test that can determine a rough estimate of your body’s internal clock. Called TimeSignature, the process looks at 40 genes in a person’s blood and uses an algorithm to determine their biological clock time to within an hour and a half.
Researchers believe that this technology can be used to assess the best time to deliver a person’s medications so the drugs are most effective. And unlike previous tests that required drawing blood multiple times during several hours, TimeSignature only requires two pricks and can be done any time of the day — even if a patient is sick.
Another benefit of this research is that it allows experts to deduce when someone’s circadian rhythms — aka their internal clock — are disrupted so they can prescribe steps to fix it. After all, an out-of-sync body clock has been associated with health conditions like weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s.
Circadian rhythms control “everything from when you feel sleepy, to when you feel hungry, to when your blood pressure rises and falls,” Rosemary Braun, the study’s lead author, said. “With it controlling so many different things, it’s unsurprising that it also has a really big impact on health.”
Unfortunately, TimeSignature isn’t ready for doctors across the country to use — but that’s certainly the goal in the future. “More research is needed,” Braun said. “What we envision down the road, ultimately, is this being used as a diagnostic and as a monitoring mechanism.”