Our biological clock is disrupted by the 24-hour society in which we now live. Within the BioClock consortium, researchers and societal partners from across the Netherlands join forces to restore and preserve the health of the biological clock. The activities cover the whole of society: from human health and disease to the natural environment and the protection of biodiversity.
Topics such as shift work, optimal times for cancer immunotherapy and flu vaccinations, chronotherapy for depression, and the effects of light pollution on insects and other light-sensitive animals are all covered in the six-year research program.
Since the start of life on Earth, virtually every species evolved under a 24-hour light-dark cycle, giving rise to an internal biological clock that is remarkably well-conserved throughout a wide range of plant and animal species, including humans. The timing of light exposure, physical activity, and food intake are important cues for proper functioning of the biological clock. However, these inputs have drastically – and abruptly – changed in our modern society: 80% of the world’s population now live in areas with a light-polluted night sky, one in five workers in the Netherlands is engaged in some form of shift work, and there is a round-the-clock demand for goods and services. These changes in our society have direct consequences for the biological clock and for health.
To tackle these challenges, the BioClock consortium aims to:
• Promote the health of the biological clock across society, including the elderly, students, and shift workers, by developing and implementing lifestyle changes and lighting strategies for use at work, in school, and at home;
•Improve patient care through the application of chronobiology to clinical practice by promoting cyclic conditions for patients in hospitals and for people suffering from depression, by developing medications and treatments that strengthen the biological clock, and by optimizing the timing of vaccination and cancer treatments;
• Develop sustainable, non-invasive strategies designed to minimize the negative effects of light pollution on biological clocks in nature (e.g. plants, insects, fish, and mammals).