Research in the Turek laboratory is focused on the study of sleep and circadian rhythms, with special interest in identifying genes that regulate sleep and circadian rhythms. Ongoing work on sleep and circadian rhythms includes an investigation of: (1) the neurochemical, molecular, and cellular events involved in the entrainment, generation and expression of circadian rhythms arising from a central biological clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus, (2) the genetics of the circadian clock system and the molecular genetic mechanisms underlying the sleep-wake cycle, (3) the feedback effects of the sleep-wake cycle on the circadian clock regulating the timing of that cycle, (4) the effects of advanced age on the expression of behavioral and endocrine rhythms, and on the expression of circadian clock genes, 5) the links between sleep, circadian rhythms and energy metabolism and, (6) the role of melatonin in modulating sleep and circadian rhythms.
In addition to our work on rodents, we have established extensive collaborations with clinical researchers. Studies in humans are aimed at shifting the human clock in an attempt to alleviate mental and physical problems that are associated with disorders in circadian time-keeping, particularly in the elderly and in shift-workers. In addition, we are using both pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches to determine if we can reverse the effects of aging on the circadian clock system in both rodents and humans. Our sleep, circadian and metabolic studies are focused on how disruption in these interactions can lead to obesity, diabetes and CVD.