LabBook September 14, 2012

Northern exposure of our New Hospital Pavilion, along with the Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery to the left

Welcome to LabBook, our weekly roundup of University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences research news from around campus and the world wide web. Each Friday, LabBook will recap the week on the blog, link to news stories about our faculty and studies, and briefly summarize a handful of recent publications by our researchers.


You’ve probably heard about circadian rhythms, or the natural 24-hour cycle that controls our sleep patterns, eating habits and a bunch of other biological functions. There are also shorter, two- to six-hour cycles called ultradian rhythms that affect our body’s functions too. Brian Prendergast and his colleagues studied how changing the amount of daylight that Siberian hamsters were exposed to triggers changes in their physiology. As days become shorter, their ultradian rhythms of activity and feeding become more pronounced as these little guys prepare their bodies for winter.

Organ transplants are a lifesaving procedure for thousands of people each year, but even when they go well, transplant recipients have to take immunosuppressive drugs the rest of their lives to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organs. Anita Chong and Maria-Luisa Alegre are studying how the immune system’s response to transplanted organs is related to the way it fights off infections, to see if there is a way to teach the body to accept an organ permanently without losing its ability to protect itself from germs.


Humans are social animals, and the more we study how socialization affects the body, the more we understand how important it is to our health and well-being. This week the New York Times looked at the importance of older adults maintaining strong social ties to stave off cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and a host of other health issues. The article cited the work of Louise Hawkley and John Cacioppo on the impact of chronic loneliness on health.

Everyone wants to find meaning in their work, but for doctors, who go through years of training and often treat patients with intractable and frustrating health issues, this impulse is even stronger. This week American Medical News reported on research by John Yoon that found that doctors who view medicine as a calling are more likely to be satisfied treating patients with problems like obesity or addiction. Doctors who are unhappy with their career choice were less likely to be fulfilled by treating such patients, and often blame them for their problems.

Finally, are you a sucker for wagging tails and wet noses? You may think you’re an animal person because you grew up on a farm or had a house full of pets, but a study by Kristen Jacobson, featured in the Huffington Post this week, found that it has more to do with genetics than your upbringing. If you love animals, you have Mom or Dad to thank.

About Matt Wood (531 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer and manager of communications at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences Division.
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