Circadian Rhythms Can Influence Drugs’ Effectiveness

MIT researchers find circadian variations in liver function play an important role in how drugs are broken down in the body.

Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares, MIT; iStock

Giving drugs at different times of day could significantly affect how they are metabolized in the liver, according to a new study from MIT. Using tiny, engineered livers derived from cells from human donors, the researchers found that many genes involved in drug metabolism are under circadian control. These circadian variations affect how much of a drug is available and how effectively the body can break it down. For example, they found that enzymes that break down Tylenol and other drugs are more abundant at certain times of day. Overall, the researchers identified more than 300 liver genes that follow a circadian clock, including many involved in drug metabolism, as well as other functions such as inflammation. Analyzing these rhythms could help researchers develop better dosing schedules for existing drugs.

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