Injuries such as cuts and burns heal up 60% faster if the injury happens during the day, rather than at night, scientists discovered.
It’s due to the way our body clocks work, regulating healing by skin cells – and ‘optimising’ it for the daylight hours.
The discovery could lead to new drugs to improve wound healing, according to the study led by scientists from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB).
Our body clocks, or circadian rhythm, regulate nearly every cell in the human body, driving 24-hour cycles in many processes such as sleeping, hormone secretion and metabolism.
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Tests using skin cells showed that during the internal body clock’s ‘daytime’, wounds to the skin healed almost twice as efficiently as wounds incurred during the night.
The researchers found this was mirrored in humans with burns, by checking the records of 118 patients with burns, using a database from all major burns units in England and Wales.
Dr John O’Neill senior author on the paper from the MRC LMB, said: ‘This is the first time that the circadian clock within individual skin cells has been shown to determine how effectively they respond to injuries.
‘We consistently see about a 2-fold difference in wound healing speed between the body clock’s day and night. It may be that our bodies have evolved to heal fastest during the day when injuries are more likely to occur.’
‘For people who had burns, we found quite a big difference in wound healing speed, which agreed perfectly with the predictions we made based on our findings in the lab.
‘It may be that healing time could be improved by resetting the cells’ clocks prior to surgery, perhaps by applying drugs that can reset the biological clock to the time of best healing in the operation site.’