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Rodent models to study the metabolic effects of shiftwork in humans

Research group Kalsbeek
Publication year 2015
Published in Frontiers in Pharmacology
Authors Anne-Loes Opperhuizen, Linda W M van Kerkhof, Karin I Proper, Wendy Rodenburg, A. Kalsbeek

Our current 24-h society requires an increasing number of employees to work nightshifts with millions of people worldwide working during the evening or night. Clear associations have been found between shiftwork and the risk to develop metabolic health problems, such as obesity. An increasing number of studies suggest that the underlying mechanism includes disruption of the rhythmically organized body physiology. Normally, daily 24-h rhythms in physiological processes are controlled by the central clock in the brain in close collaboration with peripheral clocks present throughout the body. Working schedules of shiftworkers greatly interfere with these normal daily rhythms by exposing the individual to contrasting inputs, i.e., at the one hand (dim)light exposure at night, nightly activity and eating and at the other hand daytime sleep and reduced light exposure. Several different animal models are being used to mimic shiftwork and study the mechanism responsible for the observed correlation between shiftwork and metabolic diseases. In this review we aim to provide an overview of the available animal studies with a focus on the four most relevant models that are being used to mimic human shiftwork: altered timing of (1) food intake, (2) activity, (3) sleep, or (4) light exposure. For all studies we scored whether and how relevant metabolic parameters, such as bodyweight, adiposity and plasma glucose were affected by the manipulation. In the discussion, we focus on differences between shiftwork models and animal species (i.e., rat and mouse). In addition, we comment on the complexity of shiftwork as an exposure and the subsequent difficulties when using animal models to investigate this condition. In view of the added value of animal models over human cohorts to study the effects and mechanisms of shiftwork, we conclude with recommendations to improve future research protocols to study the causality between shiftwork and metabolic health problems using animal models.

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