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Intensive Care Med Exp. 2014 Dec;2(1):18. doi: 10.1186/2197-425X-2-18. Epub 2014 May 14.

'Chronomics' in ICU: circadian aspects of immune response and therapeutic perspectives in the critically ill.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care and Burn Unit, Hôpitaux Universitaire St-Louis-Lariboisière, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, University of Paris Diderot, U942 INSERM, Paris, 75475, France,


Complex interrelations exist between the master central clock, located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus, and several peripheral clocks, such as those found in different immune cells of the body. Moreover, external factors that are called 'timekeepers', such as light/dark and sleep/wake cycles, interact with internal clocks by synchronizing their different oscillation phases. Chronobiology is the science that studies biologic rhythms exhibiting recurrent cyclic behavior. Circadian rhythms have a duration of approximately 24 h and can be assessed through chronobiologic analysis of time series of melatonin, cortisol, and temperature. Critically ill patients experience severe circadian deregulation due to not only the lack of effective timekeepers in the intensive care unit (ICU) environment but also systemic inflammation. The latter has been found in both animal and human studies to disrupt circadian rhythmicity of all measured biomarkers. The aims of this article are to describe circadian physiology during acute stress and to discuss the effects of ICU milieu upon circadian rhythms, in order to emphasize the value of considering circadian-immune disturbance as a potential tool for personalized treatment. Thus, besides neoplastic processes, critical illness could be linked to what has been referred as 'chronomics': timing and rhythm. In addition, different therapeutic perspectives will be presented in association with environmental approaches that could restore circadian connection and hasten physical recovery.

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