Do you suffer from insomnia? It may be caused by your genes. Yes, that may be true for many of the people in the world that suffer from insomnia, according to a new study published in the prestigious journal Science.
According to this new study, a mutation, dubbed Sleepless, may be responsible for your countless hour of non-sleep. The study found that a broken copy of the Sleepless gene is responsible for flies (yes flies) for not getting enough sleep.
It all started when scientists and researchers found a fly that was getting only one or two hours of sleep. Normal or regular flies usually sleep about 12 hours per day.
Not only that, but these mutant flies were getting almost 70 percent more sleep, but they also usually sleep with their eyes open.
These observations intrigued scientists so they went on to investigated these strange non-sleeping flies. Using advance DNA analytical techniques they were able to pint point at the gene that was responsible for the non-sleeping fly behavior. The new study’s results suggest that these mutation breaks the ability of the gene to control a slowdown in certain nerves causing flies not being able to sleep.
Moreover, going more into the study details, the researchers, led by Amita Sehgal, a neurobiologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, ffound that the sleepless gene produces a biochemical molecule (named glycosyl phosphatidyl inositol-anchored protein) which its absence causes the extreme reduction in sleep seen in Drosophila (the fly used in this study).
Although the study was made on an animal system that differ significantly from human (an this may be a defect of the study) it may have implications in understanding the human insomnia. In fact, Dr. Sehgal believes that the observed inability of control neurons (as seen in flies) may explain why humans have restless nights.
But many other researchers do not believe so. In fact many think that just because a small fly cannot make to their sleep (because of the altered genetic code) do not mean that it is true for human. As known humans are, by far, more complex than the fruit fly (Drosophila melanongaster).
According to Sehgal study, the sleepless fruit fly pays a hefty price for not being able to conceal its regular sleeping time. In fact, the research show that these mutated flies are not able to live their statistical regular lifetime span. Indeed they life shorter periods of time and, in addition, they have impaired coordination especially in their legs were a “twitching” activity was observed in the sleepless mutated fly.
Journal reference: Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1155942)
Identification of SLEEPLESS, a Sleep-Promoting Factor