Postdoctoral fellow in Biochemistry
Award-winning publication: Translational control of entrainment and synchrony of the suprachiasmatic circadian clock by mTOR/4E-BP1 signaling
Published in: Neuron, 79(4), 712-724, 2013.
"In mammals, something known as a "circadian clock" in the brain drives daily rhythms in sleep and wakefulness, feeding and metabolism, and many other essential processes. But the inner workings of this brain clock are complex, and the molecular processes behind it have eluded scientists, until now. In this study, I have discovered a new way to improve internal clock function through genetic manipulations, opening doors on new ways to treat circadian clock-related disorders. My findings suggest that the function of the brain clock can be boosted by decreasing the activity of a specific repressor protein. Eventually, large scale screening of small chemical compounds targeting this repressor may facilitate the discovery of "tonics" for the brain clock."
Ruifeng Cao's work helps understanding the molecular mechanisms of biological clocks, which may contribute to the development of time-managing drugs. The more we know about these mechanisms, the better able we will be to solve problems associated with disruptions to our bodies' internal clocks. A stronger clock function may also help improve many physiological processes, such as aging. Additionally, this research could shed light on future treatments for disorders triggered by circadian clock dysfunction, including jet lag, sleep disorders, shift work disorders, and chronic conditions like depression and Parkinson's disease.