UCLA scientists report the first evidence that a gene outside the brain controls the ability to rebound from sleep deprivation — a surprising discovery that could eventually lead to greatly improved treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders that do not involve getting a drug into the brain.
The scientists report that increasing the level of Bmal1 — a critical master gene that regulates sleep patterns — in skeletal muscle makes mice resistant to sleep deprivation.
“When we first saw the importance of the muscle, we were surprised,” said senior author Ketema Paul, UCLA associate professor of integrative biology and physiology. “At first we didn’t believe it, so we repeated the experiment several times. We finally realized this is not a mistake; this is real.”
The research, published in the journal eLife, is the first evidence that a biological clock in the muscle can communicate with the brain, and is potentially good news for people who lose sleep because of factors including a crying newborn or a job that does not allow for normal sleep cycles, such as active military service.
Chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, infectious diseases and other illnesses, said Paul, a neurobiologist and member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. Having a resistance to sleep loss may reduce the risk of getting these diseases, Paul said, and his team reports evidence that increased Bmal1 in the skeletal muscle may provide this resistance.
Turning Bmal1 off throughout the brain and body in mice, using a molecular genetic technique, impaired their ability to rebound from sleep deprivation, the researchers report. Restoring the gene in the skeletal muscle enabled the mice to rebound from the sleep deficit, while restoring the gene in the brain, surprisingly, did not. Increasing the level of this gene in skeletal muscle also made mice less sleepy after longer periods of sleep deprivation. The researchers increased the level by genetically inserting extra copies of the gene into the genome of the mice.
“We show that not only is Bmal1 responsible for the ability to recover from sleep loss, but also that Bmal1 expression in the skeletal muscle is responsible for that process,” Paul said. “When we increased Bmal1 in the skeletal muscle, the mice were able to tolerate more sleep loss. That suggests the skeletal muscle is directly communicating with the brain.”
In one part of the study, the researchers kept mice awake for almost 24 consecutive hours. The researchers measured the brain activity of the mice with an electroencephalogram and found that the brain activity revealed the mice with the additional Bmal1 in skeletal muscle — about six times the normal amount — were much less sleepy than the mice without additional Bmal1. The mice with increased Bmal1 slept substantially less than the other mice during the 24 hours following the sleep deprivation.
The researchers removed Bmal1 in the skeletal muscle by molecularly excising the gene from the mouse genome, and they found that the removal impaired the mice’s ability to recover from sleep loss; these mice were sleepier.
The researchers, who worked for more than three years on this series of studies, did not see any negative consequences of increasing Bmal1 in the muscle.
Why are sleep researchers just now discovering the importance of Bmal1 in the skeletal muscle, a gene that is also in humans?
“I think one of the reasons we’ve missed this is because we spent so much time looking in the brain,” Paul said.
Bmal1 is a master gene that turns other genes on and off, he said. Perhaps in the future, Paul said, scientists will produce a pill that increases the level of Bmal1 in the muscle, or even better, increases the level of the specific gene that is communicating with the brain’s master circadian clock. “We have a few candidates that we’re studying,” he said.
In future research, Paul wants to learn how the skeletal muscle communicates with the brain, and hopes to identify which gene downstream Bmal1 is affecting.
The Latest on: Insomnia
- 6 types of insomnia exist, and each responds to a different kind of treatmenton August 16, 2019 at 5:09 pm
“Insomnia” is one of those buzzwords with which most of us wish we were way less acquainted. But alas, the persistent problem with sleeping that keeps us from falling and staying amid our dreams ...
- Insomnia Cookies suspect charged with aggravated robberyon August 16, 2019 at 6:56 am
Insomnia Cookies suspect charged with aggravated robbery Ka'Mare Alanta Harris, 23, was charged with a felony after an incident at the St. Cloud late-night cookie and ice cream store. Check out this ...
- How some Utahns got rid of their insomnia symptomson August 15, 2019 at 1:07 pm
50 percent of people say they don't get enough sleep! And 75 percent of people admit to using their vacation time to get more sleep! Thursday, August 15 is National Relaxation Day, so we got ...
- 23-year-old suspected of Insomnia Cookies robbery in custodyon August 15, 2019 at 12:09 pm
23-year-old suspected of Insomnia Cookies robbery in custody Ka'Mare Alanta Harris, 23, was arrested in Baxter after police identified him as a suspect in the Tuesday morning robbery of Insomnia ...
- Insomnia Pharmacological Treatment Market: Upcoming Key Events & Latest Innovations in the Industry By 2026on August 13, 2019 at 5:14 am
Aug 13, 2019 (Global QYResearch via COMTEX) -- The global Insomnia Pharmacological Treatment market studies the overall dynamics and trends of the market in terms of various segments and regional ...
- Awake in the night? How to beat insomnia without medicationon August 12, 2019 at 3:09 pm
Well, according to the latest global stats, you’re not alone. Vogue asks the experts the best ways to beat insomnia, for a restful night’s sleep without resorting to medication. It’s 3am. You’ve been ...
- Insomnia Cookies opens in Worcester’s Canal District, offering freshly baked treats until 3 a.m.on August 12, 2019 at 11:55 am
Insomnia Cookies has opened in Worcester’s Kelley Square, offering warm treats delivered until 3 a.m. The chain, which has more than 100 locations across the country, opened up shop in the Canal ...
- Insomnia Cookies could open as early as Saturday in Worcester’s Canal Districton August 8, 2019 at 8:12 am
A new location of Insomnia Cookies could open in Worcester’s Canal District as soon as Saturday. The company, which delivers warm cookies until 3 a.m., is just about ready to open a street-level ...
- Insomnia in pregnancy is common, but it's not normalon August 7, 2019 at 6:12 am
Many pregnant women find themselves waking up in the middle of night to go the bathroom (for the third time) or struggling to find a comfortable sleep position. Mildly disrupted sleep is common ...
- Insomnia Cookies may cure late-night munchieson August 7, 2019 at 3:59 am
The region’s late-night food lineup is about to welcome a new competitor. Philadelphia-headquartered Insomnia Cookies will be opening its first Buffalo Niagara area store later this summer in the ...
via Google News and Bing News