Sleep is essential for human health. But with increasing age, many people experience a decline in sleep quality, which in turn reduces their quality of life. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biology of Ageing in Cologne have investigated the mechanisms by which ageing impairs sleep in the fruit fly. Their findings suggest that age-related sleep decline can be prevented and might even be reversible.
To uncover basic age-related sleep mechanisms, the Max Planck scientists studied the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, a classical model organism in ageing research. „Drosophila’s sleep has many features in common with that of humans, including the decline in quality“, says Luke Tain of the MPI for Biology of Ageing.
„Like humans, flies sleep at night and are active during the day. We can observe when and how long flies sleep. We can also determine their sleep quality by measuring how often they wake. This allows us to study the effects of specific substances or other sleep-influencing factors such as age and genetic disposition.“
Ageing researchers Athanasios Metaxakis, Luke Tain, and Sebastian Grönke, in the department of MPI Director Linda Partridge, discovered that a reduced activity in the IIS signalling pathway leads to improved sleep quality at night and higher activity levels at day. A “signalling pathway” is a biological method of transferring information, and via those pathways, the cell can respond to external conditions like the state of food supply.
„In our study, we described the role of the IIS pathway in regulating sleep and activity through the neurotransmitters octopamine and dopamine“, explains Tain. „What makes this pathway so interesting to us is the fact that it is evolutionarily conserved. This means that its components and functions are similar in diverse species from simple organisms like fruit flies to mice and even humans. Furthermore, we were able to improve sleep quality by administering therapeutic agents.”
Moreover, the scientists found out that day activity and night sleep are regulated by two distinct signalling pathways, night sleep being mediated through TOR and dopaminergic signalling. Surprisingly, if TOR’s activity is acutely inhibited by treatment with the therapeutic agent Rapamycin, sleep quality improves even in old flies, suggesting that age-related sleep decline is not only preventable, but also reversible.
The scientists will follow up on their findings. Luke Tain: „Given the high evolutionarily conservation of IIS and TOR function, our results implicate potential therapeutic targets to improve sleep quality in humans. This would be our longer-term goal. The next step however, is to find out whether these mechanisms also work in higher animals like mice.“
Lowered Insulin Signalling Ameliorates Age-Related Sleep Fragmentation in Drosophila. Athanasios Metaxakis, Luke S. Tain, Sebastian Grönke, Oliver Hendrich, Yvonne Hinze, Ulrike Birras, and Linda Partridge. PLOS Biology, April 1, 2014.
Sabine Dzuck | Max-Planck-Institut
Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis
23.01.2017 | Massachusetts General Hospital
Team discovers how bacteria exploit a chink in the body's armor
20.01.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.01.2017 | Process Engineering