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
Real-time imaging of lung lesions during surgery helps localize tumors and improve precision
30.07.2015 | American Association for Thoracic Surgery
Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies
29.07.2015 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
Argonne scientists used Mira to identify and improve a new mechanism for eliminating friction, which fed into the development of a hybrid material that exhibited superlubricity at the macroscale for the first time. Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) researchers helped enable the groundbreaking simulations by overcoming a performance bottleneck that doubled the speed of the team's code.
While reviewing the simulation results of a promising new lubricant material, Argonne researcher Sanket Deshmukh stumbled upon a phenomenon that had never been...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
30.07.2015 | Awards Funding
30.07.2015 | Life Sciences
30.07.2015 | Health and Medicine