Since the start of life on Earth, virtually every species evolved under a 24-hour light-dark cycle, giving rise to an internal biological clock that is remarkably well-conserved throughout a wide range of plant and animal species, including humans. The timing of light exposure, physical activity, and food intake are important cues for proper functioning of the biological clock. However, these inputs have drastically – and abruptly – changed in our modern society: 80% of the world’s population now live in areas with a light-polluted night sky, one in five workers in the Netherlands is engaged in some form of shift work, and there is a round-the-clock demand for goods and services. These changes in our society have dire consequences for the biological clock and for health.
To tackle these challenges, the BioClock consortium aims to:
- Promote the health of the biological clock across society, including the elderly, students, and shift workers, by developing and implementing lifestyle changes and lighting strategies for use at work, in school, and at home;
- Improve patient care through the application of chronobiology to clinical practice by promoting cyclic conditions for patients in hospitals and for people suffering from depression, developing medications that strengthen the biological clock, and optimizing the timing of vaccination and cancer treatments;
- Develop sustainable, non-invasive strategies designed to minimize the negative effects of light pollution on biological clocks in nature (e.g. plants, insects, fish, and mammals).
Funded by a 10 million euros grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) in the framework of the National Research Agenda (NWA), an interdisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians, local governments, and other societal partners will join forces to preserve and restore the health of the biological clock, ultimately benefiting not only our own health and well-being, but also the world around us.
The BioClock Consortium is funded by the NWA-ORC programme of the Dutch Research Council (NWO; project number 1292.19.077).