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Neuroscience and
mental health
at Manchester

Neuroscience and mental health at Manchester

Biological clocks

At The University of Manchester, we have the largest group of circadian biologists in Europe who are committed to understanding biological clocks.

alarm clock

Driving circadian rhythms, the body clock is essential for regulating physiology and behaviour with the external environment. Disruption of these rhythms, which may occur as a result of ageing, shift work or jet lag, can be devastating, affecting health, productivity and wellbeing.

At Manchester, we have pioneered the use of new genetic techniques in mouse models to disrupt clock function, and have demonstrated synchronisation of the body clock with pharmaceutical treatments.

The potential reach of this research is broad, opening up the possibility of treating a wide range of health issues associated with disruption of circadian rhythms, from inflammatory diseases to sleep disorders.  

From molecular mechanisms through to clinical applications, we have unique, broad-ranging expertise in the area of biological clocks. The world works better with us.

Proof of principle

At Manchester we focus firstly on proof of principle, and then apply our findings across the wider setting.

We have specialist expertise in the field of circadian biology and outstanding skills in the use of transgenic animal models and translational in vivo techniques. We have used these skills to identify specific targets and circuits where we can develop and enhance our understanding, laying solid groundwork for potential future therapeutic applications.

We have specific interest in the field of inflammation, investigating the molecular mechanisms linking the circadian clock and the immune system. Here we have demonstrated that targeted genetic disruption of a key clock gene in mouse macrophages abolishes the ability of the mouse to respond to normally timed inflammatory challenges, suggesting that daily variations in inflammatory responses are mediated by the macrophage clock. We built on these findings to demonstrate that the production and release of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 6 can be modified through modulation of the clock gene rev-erb alpha, and that the absence of rev-erb alpha does not affect the macrophage clock.

From these findings, we established that the clock gene rev-erb alpha is an integral link between the circadian clock and immune function, and may therefore represent a unique therapeutic target in human inflammatory disease.

Our niche expertise combined with robust experimental techniques help us to better understand the circadian clock. The world works better with us.

Chronotherapy

At Manchester, we're collaborating with industry to explore the role of the biological clock and the use of chronotherapy in inflammatory diseases.  

Inflammatory diseases exhibit strong time-of-day symptoms and represent an area of unmet clinical need. In 2011, we were the first academics in the UK to team up with the NHS and industry (GlaxoSmithKline) in a three-way collaboration to find new therapies for inflammatory conditions through the Manchester Centre for Nuclear Hormone Research in Disease. A key part of this research is investigating how the biological clock controls inflammation in lung disease.

We are also combining our research expertise with the drug discovery capabilities of industry, to explore the use of chronotherapy, identifying the best timing of pharmacological therapies. We aim to devise new strategies to maximise the health benefits and minimise adverse side effects in the treatment of chronic inflammatory disease.

By optimising the timing of treatments, chronotherapeutics offers a novel approach for developing new therapies and improving the efficiency of existing ones to increase the benefit to patients. 

From chronic inflammatory disease to chronotherapeutics. The world works better with us

Light receptors

Using our knowledge of light's influence on the biological clock, we’re changing the way the world looks at artificial lighting.

The body clock is very strongly entrained by light. As well as activating rod and cone receptors in the classical visual system, light has more recently been found to activate a third type of light receptor, the melanopsin photoreceptor. Over the last decade we have been dedicated to understanding this new photoreceptor and how it works, and have been involved in international collaborations to determine its impact on physiology and behaviour, demonstrating its role in a range of important sub-conscious responses to light.

Using this information, we are now working with lighting manufacturers to design lighting systems that are more suited to our biological needs.

We are also working with public policy organisations to produce updated international standards for light measurement, to ensure lighting everywhere is supporting our biological rhythms.

Find out more via our Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health.

From underlying receptor mechanisms to lighting design. The world works better with us.