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Pediatr Res. 2006 Sep;60(3):304-8. Epub 2006 Jul 20.

Constant light disrupts the developing mouse biological clock.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235, USA.


The central biological clock of the brain, contained within the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of mammals, orchestrates an orderly "internal day" of physiology and behavior. The developing biological clock begins to respond to light at an early stage and a particular concern in humans is whether light exposure has disruptive effects on the developing biological clock of infants exposed to constant lighting conditions in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Worldwide, eighteen million, or 14%, of newborns estimated to be of low birth weight, are exposed to artificial lighting environments in hospital nurseries annually. Here, we have tested whether constant light (LL) exposure disrupts the developing biological clock of mice, using a circadian reporter transgenic mouse model in which the organization of the central biological clock can be assayed by real-time gene expression imaging. We now find that LL has both acute and long-term disruptive effects on developing biological clocks and that cyclic lighting conditions are critical for developing circadian clocks to coordinate their molecular circadian mechanisms. This suggests that, from the perspective of developing circadian organization in humans, cyclic light conditions in NICUs are likely to be most appropriate for infants.

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