Friday, August 14, 2009

It's all in da gene: sleep

I could really use this mutation. It seems I naturally need 8+ hours of sleep -- very inconvenient!

Related posts: All in da gene , mutants

"Horses ain't like people, man, they can't make themselves better than they're born. See, with a horse, it's all in the gene. It's the fucking gene that does the running. The horse has got absolutely nothing to do with it." --- Paulie (Eric Roberts) in The Pope of Greenwich Village.


Early Risers Are Mutants

Don't hate those people who are perky and efficient after only a few hours of sleep. They can't help it. New research suggests that a genetic mutation may explain why some people sleep less.

Researchers don't know exactly why some people do fine with as little as 4 hours of sleep a night, while others need 12. "We've believed for a long time that there's a genetic basis," says Paul Shaw, a neurobiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. But scientists have only recently begun to ferret out which genes are responsible.

In 2001, geneticist Ying-Hui Fu and colleagues identified a mutation in a gene called Per2 that appeared to cause familial advanced sleep-phase syndrome (FASPS). People who have this condition sleep a normal 8 hours, but they go to bed earlier than most people, retiring at 6 or 7 in the evening and waking at 3 or 4 in the morning. "After that was published, a lot of these people [with unusual sleep schedules] came to us," says Fu, who is now at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. "So we started to collect DNA samples." The team now has genetic information from more than 60 families.

Fu and her colleagues have spent the past several years mining this vast genetic storehouse for more mutations that might affect sleep patterns. In 2005, they uncovered another mutation associated with FASPS. And now they say they have found the first genetic mutation in humans that appears to affect sleep duration rather than sleep timing. The mutation lies in DEC2, a gene that codes for a protein that helps turn off expression of other genes, including some that control circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates a person's sleep-wake cycle. The mutation occurred in just two people, a mother and her daughter. The women sleep an average of only 6.25 hours, whereas the rest of the family members sleep a more typical 8 hours.

To confirm that this mutation shortens sleep, Fu and colleagues engineered mice to carry the mutant form of DEC2. The mutant mice slept about an hour less than normal mice, the team reports today in Science. The finding also held for fruit flies: Mutant flies slept about 2 hours less than normal flies.

DEC2 likely isn't the whole story when it comes to short sleep. "Genetic control of sleep is going to be complex and is going to include multiple types of genes," says Shaw, who was not affiliated with the study. But that doesn't diminish the importance of this paper, he notes. "It's really an amazing piece of work."

The findings, says Fu, could lead to better treatments for sleep disorders. If the mutated form of DEC2 were available in a pill, Fu says she'd take it, noting that she needs about 8 hours of shuteye a night to feel rested. "All my life I've wanted to be able to sleep less."


The Transcriptional Repressor DEC2 Regulates Sleep Length in Mammals

Ying He,1 Christopher R. Jones,2 Nobuhiro Fujiki,3 Ying Xu,1,* Bin Guo,4 Jimmy L. Holder, Jr.,1,{dagger} Moritz J. Rossner,5 Seiji Nishino,3 Ying-Hui Fu1,{ddagger}

Sleep deprivation can impair human health and performance. Habitual total sleep time and homeostatic sleep response to sleep deprivation are quantitative traits in humans. Genetic loci for these traits have been identified in model organisms, but none of these potential animal models have a corresponding human genotype and phenotype. We have identified a mutation in a transcriptional repressor (hDEC2-P385R) that is associated with a human short sleep phenotype. Activity profiles and sleep recordings of transgenic mice carrying this mutation showed increased vigilance time and less sleep time than control mice in a zeitgeber time– and sleep deprivation–dependent manner. These mice represent a model of human sleep homeostasis that provides an opportunity to probe the effect of sleep on human physical and mental health.


Unknown said...

Sleep is an interesting subject to study. It is amazing how little we know about what goes on during sleep and what impacts our need for sleep. This would make a great topic for biomedical science fair projects.

Ian Smith said...

I know of Christian Science biz exec who "trained" himself to sleep only four hours a day.

The followers of the Rule of St. Benedict sleep for only six hours.

So it is possible but probably not a life worth living.

Nandome2552 said...

Snoring can keep you and your spouse or partner a good night's sleep. There are many products on the market to help to stop people snoring. If you want to know go to now!!!

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