There could be a connection between certain chronic diseases and the changing of the seasons.
New research reveals that different seasons can lead to activity of different genes in a person's DNA. If you've ever wondered why you felt worse in the Winter time than in the Summer time, or vice-versa, then the results of a recent research project led by geneticist John Todd at the University of Cambridge may shed some light on as to why this happens.
As a part of the research, the cells from 16,000 individuals were sampled from different countries around the world. The diversity of the cells offered a good baseline that wasn't biased to any one part of the world.
The genes from the samples were closely monitored throughout the changing of the seasons. Observations revealed that some genes were more active than others during certain seasons of the year. Various means of testing were performed to come up with results, such as examining expression profiles in blood and adipose tissue samples. Scientists then checked whether or not the associated genes were producing proteins to determine if they were active or not.
The results were fairly uniform among the diversified samples. Winter time would decrease the expression (or production of proteins) of genes known to help prevent inflammation, transversely, Summer time would increase the expression of genes known to prevent inflammation. This further explains why people tend to feel achier in the Winter time than in the Summer time; the lack of expression in the Winter time gives inflammation the proper environment to thrive and cause pain.
Todd explains that the reasoning behind the changes could have something to do with exposure to daylight or changes in temperature during the seasonal change:
"One of the standout results was that genes promoting inflammation were increased in winter, whereas genes suppressing inflammation were decreased in the winter... as the seasons come on it gets colder, the days get shorter. So daylight and temperature could be factors."
It is still unknown exactly what causes the changes, but this research project isn't over yet. The new discoveries have raised even more questions that need to be answered in follow-up research projects so that we can learn even more about what causes the changes and better ways of treating the diseases that spike during certain times of the year.
Source: University of Cambridge via NPR News