Biological Rhythms

Learning how biological rhythms and light shape health & ecological systems

Since 2014, Dr. Martinez and collaborators have been building the foundation for integrating Chronobiology with Infectious Disease Ecology to learn how biological rhythms shape health and disease.

One of our interests is the intersection of chronobiology and infectious disease ecology. We have been conducting ecological and clinical studies of how biological rhythms (i.e., circadian and circannual rhythms) impact health and infectious diseases. We are particularly interested in how living in the modern artificial light environment impacts health via circadian and seasonal rhythms. We are excited to announce that, as of 2022, the Martinez Lab is in the process of constructing a six-bedroom Human Chronobiology Research facility at Emory University, which will allow us to learn more about how rhythms shape our lives.

Biological rhythms are ubiquitous in eukaryotes and govern processes ranging from circadian gene expression to seasonal life history. Exciting new research in immunology and chronobiology is revealing the rhythmic nature of immunity in animals, including humans. The picture that has emerged is that there are measurable effects of host circadian and seasonal rhythms on infection. A long-standing puzzle in infectious disease ecology has been to understand the mechanisms responsible for shaping the periodicity of infection, both within hosts, such as diel (24 hr) cycles of malaria parasite reproduction, and on the population level, including seasonal incidence, a feature of all acute infections and macroparasitic diseases. It seems clear that biological rhythms are an important, but so far under-studied, contributor to host-parasite interactions. We are convinced that ecological and evolutionary perspectives can help clarify these interactions, and thereby contribute to a better understanding of disease patterns.

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