According to a new study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, wounds such as cuts or burns that occur at nighttime heal slower than those sustained during the day. The research shows how internal body clocks regulate the healing of skin cells, and focus on healing capacity during the day. The study offers important new information for surgery and wound-healing medicines.
Kate Kelland detailed the findings of the study for Reuters.
Daytime wounds healed about 60 percent faster than nighttime wounds, which marks a significant difference that could allow doctors to facilitate a faster healing process for surgery and other procedures.
The research found that nighttime burns, defined as those that occur between 8 PM and 8 AM, took 28 days to become 95 percent healed, whereas daytime burns took only 17 days to reach that point.
Circadian rhythms, or the body’s internal clocks, regulate body cycles such as sleep, hormones, and metabolism. At the root of the faster healing during daylight hours, the researchers found that skin cells traveled more quickly to heal wounds, and that higher quantities of collagen were deposited near the wound during the daytime. Within cells, a higher level of activity for the proteins responsible for cell movement and repair accounted for this process.
John O’Neill, who co-led the research at Britain’s Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, 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 two-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.”
The scientists examined data from the records of 118 burn patients from England and Wales.
Treatment of wounds such as those described in the study costs health services billions of dollars annually. Experts have attributed this high cost to a lack of medicines that effectively speed up the healing process. The new findings could help to create such medications.
The UK’s National Health Service spends 5 billion pounds, or 6.56 billion dollars, on treating wounds annually.
University of Manchester clinician scientist John Blaikley said the research could help in creating drugs to speed up the healing process and could help doctors facilitate a smoother healing process by scheduling surgeries, or administering medicine, during the day instead of at night.