Wex­ford woman leads Ir­ish med­i­cal re­search

Wexford People - - NEWS - By BREN­DAN KEANE

A WEX­FORD woman is lead­ing Ir­ish re­search into the con­nec­tion be­tween the im­mune sys­tem and the hu­man body’s nat­u­ral body clock.

New Ross na­tive, Dr An­nie Cur­tis, is to be fea­tured in the new Sci­ence Ap­pren­tice se­ries of books for chil­dren.

A spe­cial­ist on the body’s cir­ca­dian rhythms Dr Cur­tis’ re­search with the Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons in Ire­land is help­ing shed light on why the time of day ap­pears to have an ef­fect on how the body’s im­mune sys­tem works.

For the first time, it has been ex­plained why some ill­nesses such as arthri­tis and even the com­mon cold are ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fer­ently at dif­fer­ent times of the day.

Speak­ing about her re­search Dr Cur­tis said: ‘We know that the body’s cir­ca­dian rhythms, also known as the body clock, reg­u­lates around 50 per cent of the genes in our DNA but it does it a bit dif­fer­ently in dif­fer­ent parts of the body so un­der­stand­ing all its ef­fects is very dif­fi­cult.’

She said shift work­ers ‘defy’ their body clocks and are ac­tive and eat at times that un­nat­u­ral.

‘Over time this also has an af­fect on their im­mune sys­tems,’ said Dr Cur­tis.

‘They are much more sus­cep­ti­ble to in­flam­ma­tory dis­eases (which are caused when the im­mune sys­tem goes wrong) such as can­cer and obe­sity,’ she added.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Cur­tis the body clock ex­ists be­cause hu­man be­ings need a mech­a­nism by which they can tell the time of day so they can co­or­di­nate ac­tiv­i­ties and not need to wake up to eat in the mid­dle of the night.

‘We un­der­stand how the clock it­self works – it ex­ists in each cell in the body and works as a re­sult of pro­tein lev­els that change ac­cord­ing to the time of day,’ she said.

‘The big goal in my field is to fully un­der­stand why our im­mune sys­tem changes ac­cord­ing to the time of day,’ she added.

‘We know this hap­pens but we don’t re­ally know why.’

She gave an ex­am­ple as a ‘sniffly cold’ that feels bad in the morn­ing, gets bet­ter as the day goes on and then seems to re-ap­pear the next morn­ing.

The Sci­ence Ap­pren­tice books – which all fea­ture aug­mented re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy – ware aimed at en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren and adults to ex­plore the sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics of the world around them.

The books Su­per Bod­ies, Up In The Air, Il­lu­sion and How It’s Made are pro­duced by Univer­sity Col­lege Dublin and its part­ners and sup­ported by the Sci­ence Foun­da­tion Ire­land Dis­cover Pro­gramme and the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

The Sci­ence Ap­pren­tice books are avail­able to or­der for schools and are free to col­lect with the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent in Su­perValu stores ev­ery Satur­day in Novem­ber.

New Ross sci­en­tist Dr An­nie Cur­tis is one of the fea­tured re­searchers in Su­per Bod­ies – the first of the four Sci­ence Ap­pren­tice se­ries of books.

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