As the clocks go back this October, Horizon takes a moment to look at the 24-hour rhythms that govern life. We talk to scientists trying to alter the internal clocks of our cells to help fight obesity and diabetes, and others working out the best time for each patient to take medicines. We also learn how tobacco plants can change their body clocks in a last-ditch attempt to survive when they’re threatened by predators or food scarcity.
The anti-tumour properties of chemotherapy drugs could work twice as well if you take them at times when the body is most receptive, but that means different timetables for different people, according to researchers working to understand how to use the body’s daily rhythms to make medicine optimally effective and reduce unpleasant side effects.
Sleeping, eating and even going to the bathroom, our bodies are clearly affected by the time of day. But the cycle of the moon could also have impacts on our biological functions, according to Professor Kristin Teßmar-Raible, at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna, Austria, who is leading LUNAR.CLOCK, a project funded by the EU's European Research Council exploring how the moon affects marine organisms.
Keeping calorie-burning brown fat cells running throughout the day rather than allowing them to switch on and off, possibly via tablets or injections, could help our bodies cope better with a modern day abundance of food, according to researchers who are investigating the link between the body clock and obesity.
Plants can override their own body clocks in times of stress, hijacking their programmed activities in a last-ditch attempt to survive, according to researchers who believe their work could change the way we think about internal timing.
Rare diseases are uncommon, but there are still thousands of different conditions which together affect between 27-36 million people in the EU. This month, Horizon examines the latest efforts to tackle rare diseases as well as new technology to better diagnose uncommon conditions and novel ways to reduce the socioeconomic burden of unusual disorders.
This July, Horizon goes on an investigation to find the latest in how science can catch the bad guys, from recreating crime scenes in virtual reality to hidden cameras that turn on when they spot crime in rural areas. Plus we hear how looking at organised crime could help track down terrorists, and how to keep your information safe, such as through a phone that could recognise the way you swipe.
Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk fear that the robotic revolution may already be underway, but automation isn’t going to take over just yet – first machines will work alongside us.
Future human labourers could wear sensors that talk to their robot co-workers.
A digital personal assistant plans to help migrants integrate.
Better treatments are needed to help those suffering from rare diseases, says Dr Daria Julkowska.