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Bioinformatics: Jetlag? Rotational shift work? Research on the circadian clock

Published on February 26, 2016 Updated on February 28, 2024
Centrale Nantes has been involved in health for many years now. MeForBio, a research team specialising in bioinformatics, is undertaking research, together with a team of biologists from the University of Nice, on mammalian responses to circadian disruptions.

Bioinformatics is a field of research which develops methods and software (algorithms and discrete, hybrid and statistical models) to analyse, interpret and understand biological data, thus paving the way for new scientific discoveries. Discoveries that can, for instance, lead to improved quality of life for patients, thanks to the introduction of new and more effective medical treatment. Recent scientific and technical advances mean that increasingly complex biological data is collected in increasing volumes, and modern information technology allows these large volumes to be stored, processed and analysed. Bioinformatics lies at the intersection between biology and computer science, and spans life sciences such as genomics, proteomics and systems biology.


At Centrale Nantes, Professor Olivier Roux began looking at possible applications of computer science in health back in 2003. This goes far beyond using software to process biological data. What it actually means is designing new approaches to modelling the behaviour of biological control systems. The MeForBio team came into being on 1st January 2011 at the Nantes Research Institute of Communications and Cybernetics (IRCCyN). Oliver Roux leads the team which includes two other researchers, Carito Guziolowski and Morgan Magnin, five PhD students and one post-doc. MeForBio (Formal Methods for Bioinformatics) is a bioinformatics research team focused on the formalisation and automatic reasoning of data and processes from biological systems with temporal features. MeForBio is particularly oriented towards developing frameworks and methods to model and analyse biological systems.


The MeForBio team has been working on the circadian clock since 2012 alongside its main partners - the BioInfo team at the I3S Laboratory in Nice and the 'Biology of the circadian system' team from the Institute of Biology Valrose in Nice. In 2015, this research work was incorporated into a three-year project entitled HyClock, (Hybrid Formal Modelling of Time for Circadian Clock Biology and Chronopharmacology), funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR). It is well-established that most mammals have a 24-hour cycle, known as the circadian clock.

But what happens when that cycle is disrupted? With rotating shift work, jetlag, night work, deadlines etc. How do people cope with such disruptions? Negative impacts on well-being and health have been documented. Night work is even acknowledged in Denmark as potentially carcinogenic.

The multi-disciplinary team of experts in computer science, mathematical modelling, chronobiology and chronotherapy is thus developing new formal methods and a hybrid modelling framework. These will be applied to the analysis and understanding of circadian clock function in mammals. The aim is to gain a better understanding of circadian rhythms to in turn understand how mammals respond in the event of disruption. The answers to these questions could help avert the risk of disease (cancer and cardiometabolic, inflammatory and sleep disorders) caused by these disruptions and contribute to advancing chronotherapy techniques.

For more information about Hyclock: http://www.agence-nationale-recherche.fr/en
Published on February 26, 2016 Updated on February 28, 2024