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Sick Burns Take Longer to Heal Depending on the Time of Day

The good, the bad and the ugly things we learned about our bodies today

The Rolling Stones had it right: It’s dangerous to play with fire (you might get burned, after all). Unfortunately, accidents do happen: Maybe you decided to douse a pile of autumn leaves with gasoline; perhaps you forgot to blow out your flaming shot of everclear.

Whatever the reason, sometimes we end up with burns, and recovery from those burns takes time. What’s interesting, however, is that when we get burned can affect how long that recovery takes. Specifically, whether we get burned during the day, or at night.

That’s right: According to research done by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the U.K., burns sustained at night take longer to heal than those sustained during the day — on average, 28 days and 17 days, respectively.

How is this possible? The explanation, it turns out, has to do with special cells in our skin called fibroblasts, which play a critical role in how our bodies treat burns, and wounds in general. But what researchers found was, fibroblasts change how they react to a burn depending on whether it’s day or night. During the day they spring into action, but at night they’re all like, “nah, I’m just gonna chill out.”

Why they act differently during the day and night is not entirely known, but researchers do think it has to do with circadian rhythms, i.e., how body chemistry and physiological functions change depending on the time of day.

While the study was done on burn injuries, researchers believe that the behavior of these fibroblast cells react in the same manner for other types of skin wounds as well. Knowing this could change the way doctors approach surgery, and how and when we are prescribed medication.

But back to those flaming shots of everclear — honestly, why would someone ever do that?

A few other things we learned about our bodies today: