“This is a much more precise and sophisticated measurement than identifying whether you are a morning lark or a night owl,” remarked lead author Rosemary Braun, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University. “We can assess a person’s biological clock to within 1.5 hours.”
Previous methods for reading the body’s circadian clock required multiple blood tests taken every hour throughout the course of the day. The new method uses computer software and mathematical algorithms to get a reading with two sequential blood draws.
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“Circadian timing is a modifiable risk factor for improving cognitive health, but if we can’t measure it, it’s difficult to know if we’ve made the right diagnosis,” Zee said. “Now we can measure it just like a lipid level.”
The software and algorithm will be made available to other researchers for further development, and will also enable them to easily examine the impact of misaligned circadian clocks in a range of maladies, including diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.