Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

WSU researchers discover key mechanism behind sleep

14.09.2010
Finding holds promise for treatment of fatigue and sleep disorders, more detailed understanding of brain

Washington State University researchers have discovered the mechanism by which the brain switches from a wakeful to a sleeping state. The finding clears the way for a suite of discoveries, from sleeping aids to treatments for stroke and other brain injuries.

"We know that brain activity is linked to sleep, but we've never known how," said James Krueger, WSU neuroscientist and lead author of a paper in the latest Journal of Applied Physiology. "This gives us a mechanism to link brain activity to sleep. This has not been done before."

The mechanism—a cascade of chemical transmitters and proteins—opens the door to a more detailed understanding of the sleep process and possible targets for drugs and therapies aimed at the costly, debilitating and dangerous problems of fatigue and sleeplessness. Sleep disorders affect between 50 and 70 million Americans, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. The Institute also estimates the lost productivity and mishaps of fatigue cost businesses roughly $150 billion, while motor vehicle accidents involving tired drivers cost at least $48 billion a year.

The finding is one of the most significant in Krueger's 36-year career, which has focused on some of the most fundamental questions about sleep.

Even before the dawn of science, people have known that wakeful activity, from working to thinking to worrying, affects the sleep that follows. Research has also shown that, when an animal is active and awake, regulatory substances build up in the brain that induce sleep.

"But no one ever asked before: What is it in wakefulness that is driving these sleep regulatory substances?" said Krueger. "No one ever asked what it is that's initiating these sleep mechanisms. People have simply not asked the question."

The researchers documented how ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the fundamental energy currency of cells, is released by active brain cells to start the molecular events leading to sleep. The ATP then binds to a receptor responsible for cell processing and the release of cytokines, small signaling proteins involved in sleep regulation.

By charting the link between ATP and the sleep regulatory substances, the researchers have found the way in which the brain keeps track of activity and ultimately switches from a wakeful to sleeping state. For example, learning and memory depend on changing the connections between brain cells. The study shows that ATP is the signal behind those changes.

The finding reinforces a view developed by Krueger and his colleagues that sleep is a "local phenomenon, that bits and pieces of the brain sleep" depending on how they've been used.

The link between sleep, brain cell activity and ATP has many practical consequences, Krueger said.

For example:

The study provides a new set of targets for potential medications. Drugs designed to interact with the receptors ATP binds to may prove useful as sleeping pills.

Sleep disorders like insomnia can be viewed as being caused by some parts of the brain being awake while other parts are asleep, giving rise to new therapies.

ATP-related blood flow observed in brain-imaging studies can be linked to activity and sleep.
Researchers can develop strategies by which specific brain cell circuits are oriented to specific tasks, slowing fatigue by allowing the used parts of the brain to sleep while one goes about other business. It may also clear the way for stroke victims to put undamaged regions of their brains to better use.

Brain cells cultured outside the body can be used to study brain cell network oscillations between sleep-like and wake-like states, speeding the progress of brain studies.

An abstract of "ATP and the purine type 2 X7 receptor affect sleep" can be found at http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/japplphysiol.00586.2010v1.

James Krueger | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wsu.edu

Further reports about: ATP Fatigue WSU brain cell brain switches signaling protein sleep disorders

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Topological Quantum Chemistry
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>