Genetic connection to sleep duration
Scientists of the Wisconsin-Madison University have identified a gene that appears to directly affect the daily sleep duration. These experimental studies could be crucial in understanding the processes of sleeping disorders. So far, this effect is found only in the lab investigation of mutant fruit flies, but the counterpart of this gene is also present in human chromosomes.
What is a dream – about this from personal experience knows everyone, but few understand. There is a whole science devoted to sleep and sleeping disorders. Sleep differs from waking almost complete lack of reaction to external stimuli, and a very special mode of the brain operation. In experimental studies have been founded that after falling asleep cerebral blood flow is practically not reduced. Brain sleeper intensive processes the information received during wakefulness.
Specialists have long argued about how much time you need a man to sleep for the best health and maximum longevity. On average, we all sleep anywhere from seven to nine hours a day. But some people are sleeping four to five hours. This property with a significant probability to be inherited and, therefore, clearly has a genetic origin. However, until it is not known which parts of the organism genome regulate the duration of sleep.
Neurophysiologist Chiara Cirelli and her colleagues had biology experiment with fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster. These insects, like a man asleep on a daily basis, and for a long time. Caffeine and other neurostimulator make them stay awake – like you and me. Males of these flies are carried out in the arms of Morpheus to fifteen hours a day, females – an average of nine to ten hours. Drosophila in the «old age», as people tends sort of senile insomnia, lack of sleep it is less time than flies youth. When Drosophila forcibly deprived of sleep, in their behavior begin to show frustration, reminiscent of similar anomalies in mammals. In recent years, neuroscientists, including the same Chiara Cirelli, got a lot of data on exactly how these insect neurons operate in a phase of sleep and are thus included genes.
What was the experiment? Scientists first identified Drosophila, sleepy every day just for 4-5 hours. Observing “minisleep” mutants showed that they experience no discomfort from his short sleep, but live less than their wild relatives. This result can be viewed as yet another confirmation of the old truth that it is better underfeed than not have enough sleep.
Of course, the scientists first sought to detect genetic characteristics “minisleep”-mutants. Was discovered a gene that opens the cell membrane molecular channels through which inward potassium ions enter cells.
Dr. Cirelli and her colleagues believe that blocking potassium channels leads to over excitation of certain nerve centers which, in turn, prevents sinking into a deep sleep (physiology called it slow, because there is also the fastest). This hypothesis is quite plausible, but it remains to be proven. In addition, while no one can say with confidence that some form of human insomnia is associated with defects in this gene. However, the very fact that such complex biological phenomena such as sleep, can seriously affect single gene micromutation, is a discovery of considerable importance. And if it turns out that human insomnia, and in fact is associated with defects in ion channels, pharmacists will be able to start searching for drugs that can restore their normal work.
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