Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists report how oxidative stress leads to sleep. Oxidative stress is also believed to be a reason why we age and a cause of degenerative diseases.
The researchers say the discovery brings us closer to understanding the still-mysterious function of sleep and offers new hope for the treatment of sleep disorders. It may also explain why, as is suspected, chronic lack of sleep shortens life.
Professor - Gero - Miesenböck - Director - Oxford
Professor Gero Miesenböck, Director of Oxford University's Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, who led the Oxford team, said: 'It's no accident that oxygen tanks carry explosion hazard labels: uncontrolled combustion is dangerous. Animals, including humans, face a similar risk when they use the oxygen they breathe to convert food into energy: imperfectly contained combustion leads to "oxidative stress" in the cell. This is believed to be a cause of ageing and a culprit for the degenerative diseases that blight our later years. Our new research shows that oxidative stress also activates the neurons that control whether we go to sleep.'
The team studied the regulation of sleep in fruit flies -- the animal that also provided the first insight into the circadian clock nearly 50 years ago. Each fly has a special set of sleep-control neurons, brain cells that are also found in other animals and believed to exist in people. In previous research [Nature 2016; 536: 333-337], Professor Miesenböck's team discovered that these sleep-control neurons act like an on-off switch: if the neurons are electrically active, the fly is asleep; when they are silent, the fly is awake.
Dr - Seoho - Song - Graduate - Student
Dr Seoho Song, a former graduate student in the Miesenböck lab and one of...
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