The study, published in the journal Anesthesia, shows that DNA repair gene expression is lower at the onset of night work and continues to decline after acute sleep deprivation, supporting the assumption that night workers have impaired DNA repair.
The work, which has to work overnight, shows 30 percent higher DNA breaks compared to those who do not have to work overnight, and this DNA damage is increased by more than 25 percent after a night of acute sleep deprivation.
"DNA damage is a change in the basic structure of DNA that is not repaired when the DNA is replicated," said S. W. Choi, a research associate at the University of Hong Kong.
"Double-strand breaks are particularly dangerous, as repair defects lead to genomic instability and cell death, whereas decay can lead to inappropriate end-junction events, usually underlying oncogenic transformation," Choi added.
For the study, the team looked at a small group of healthy full-time physicians with a mean age between 28 and 33 years who donated sufficient blood to sleep after three days.
Physicians who had worked in the night shift were given additional blood samples the morning after the acute sleep deprivation.
"The study shows that sleep disorders are associated with DNA damage," Choi said.
Larger Prospects Studies looking at the links between DNA damage and chronic disease are warranted, and methods to alleviate or repair DNA damage associated with sleep deprivation should be investigated, Choi suggested.
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