Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Seasonal Genes
08 June 2015

Seasonal Genes

Each day and night, the activity of certain of our genes exhibits expected rises and falls. But whether a person’s genes show predictable variations over longer time scales was unclear. New research has revealed that in fact a quarter of the genes in the human genome exhibit fluctuations in activity over the course of a year, with about half peaking in summer (blue curves) and the other half peaking in winter (green curves). When comparing people from Europe with those from Oceania, this month-by-month pattern of expression was, not surprisingly, inverted. The research also revealed that winter is associated with increased expression of pro-inflammatory factors – a finding that may explain the wintertime peak in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. Besides offering a profound new insight into human physiology and disease, the findings suggest that seasonal variation may be an important consideration in assessing the effectiveness of treatments and vaccines.

Written by Ruth Williams

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