A simple method using ex vivo culture of hair follicle tissue to investigate intrinsic circadian characteristics in humans

Sci Rep. 2017 Jul 28;7(1):6824. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-07268-8.


Almost all organisms maintain a circadian clock from birth to death to synchronize their own physiology and behavior with the earth's rotation. Because the in vivo evaluation of human circadian characteristics is labor-intensive, in vitro or ex vivo approaches could provide advantages. In this study, to enable the simple and non-invasive evaluation of autonomous circadian oscillation, we established a method for monitoring clock gene expression by performing ex vivo culture of whole hair root tissue. This method is extremely simple and imposes little burden on subjects. Results obtained using Cryptochrome-deficient mice support that circadian period length in hair tissue correlates with intrinsic period length observed in physiology and behavior. We then applied this method to old-old subjects with severe dementia, who showed abnormal circadian behavior, and found that their peripheral clocks autonomously oscillated in a manner similar to those of healthy or younger subjects, indicating that the effect of cellular senescence on the autonomous clock oscillator is limited at least in some cell types. Although further validation may be required, the hair tissue-based culture assay would be a tool to investigate intrinsic circadian characteristics in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chronobiology Disorders / metabolism*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Cryptochromes / genetics
  • Cryptochromes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hair Follicle / cytology
  • Hair Follicle / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice


  • Cryptochromes