A new tool named CYCLOPS may change the way we study the circadian rhythm by allowing researchers to more easily examine circadian rhythms in living human cells.
Much of the research on molecular mechanisms underlying the circadian rhythm is performed on mice, fruit flies and other animals. There is a good reason for this: Identifying rhythms in human cells can be a huge ethical and logistic challenge. Researchers are reluctant to take living samples from humans, much less take several of them throughout the day. However, a new tool called CYCLOPS may make it easier to study the human circadian rhythm in depth and on the actual living human tissue.
What is CYCLOPS?
Technology can change the way we study human health and even change the way we treat common medical conditions. CYCLOPS may revolutionize not just the world of chronobiology, but medicine as a whole. What is this revolutionary new tool? Short for “CYClic Ordering by Periodic Structure,” CYCLOPS is a computer algorithm that can compile existing data about cell activity to identify rhythms. We currently have a great deal of information about many cells, but no way to conclusively tell if their activity varies in a predictable way throughout the day. CYCLOPS presents a new opportunity.
Applying Computer Science to Human Health
This new algorithm does not offer merely theoretical benefit. In CYCLOPS lies the potential to more effectively treat a variety of human conditions. For instance, this algorithm detected that the gene that encodes cell glucose transporter GLUT2 is extremely active at some times of day but almost silent during others. This is important because a common drug used for pancreatic cancer, streptozocin, can have deadly effects when it attaches to this transporter. Giving streptozocin at times of the day when it is least likely to interact with GLUT2 will likely reduce the high mortality rates from this deadly cancer. The practice of giving medications at strategic times to avoid side effects or enhance the therapeutic effect, known as chronopharmacology, may become commonplace once we understand more about cell behavior throughout the 24-hour day.
Pancreatic cancer is rare, but even more common diseases may be more effectively treated using this technology. ACE inhibitors, a class of medications used for a variety of conditions including high blood pressure, have been found to be more effective when taken at night. Because of this new computer algorithm, we now know exactly why this occurs and can plan treatment accordingly. People who have high blood pressure may be able to get better effects with smaller amounts of ACE inhibitors while avoiding complications like stroke, heart attack and aneurysm
Better Living Through Modern Science
Understanding more about our circadian rhythms has been difficult up to this point. However, CYCLOPS offers a new way to conduct research that can have a tangible benefit for many of us. This opens up new possibilities for chronopharmacology and a variety of treatments based on knowledge of chronobiology. Although it seems far-fetched to claim that a computer program can save lives, this technology indeed has that potential.