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Muscles may hold answers to sleep disorders
August 20, 2017, 11:52 am

Studies being conducted on the brain to find causes for some sleep disorders may have been looking in the wrong place, says a new study by researchers at the University of Texas.

A team of scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center examining a protein found in mice muscle found that it lessens the effect of sleep loss in rodents. This not only challenges the widely accepted notion that the brain controls all aspects of sleep, but also gives scientists a new area to focus on in developing therapies for people with excessive sleepiness.

The new study demonstrates how a circadian clock protein in the muscle -- BMAL1 -- regulates the length and manner of sleep in mice

While the protein's presence or absence in the brain had little effect on sleep recovery, mice with higher levels of BMAL1 in their muscles recovered from sleep deprivation more quickly. In addition, removing BMAL1 from the muscle severely disrupted normal sleep, leading to an increased need for sleep, deeper sleep, and a reduced ability to recover, said the research team.

If similar factors and pathways exist in human muscles that signal the brain to influence sleep, it could eventually lead to therapies that could benefit people in occupations requiring long stretches of wakefulness, such as in the military or in airline piloting.



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