Insomniac flies may explain why humans are unable to sleep

June 3rd, 2009 - 5:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 3 (IANS) A line of fruit flies, bred by researchers, may help shed light on the mechanisms that cause insomnia in humans.
The flies, which only get a small fraction of the sleep of normal flies, resemble insomniac humans in several ways.

“Insomnia is a common and debilitating disorder that results in substantial impairments in a person’s quality of life, reduces productivity and increases the risk for psychiatric illness,” said senior study author Paul Shaw at the Washington University School of Medicine in St.Louis (WUSM).

“We think this model has clear potential to help us learn more about the causes of insomnia and someday develop ways to test for or treat them in the clinic,” added Shaw.

“Insomnia is frustrating for clinicians for several reasons, including its high prevalence and how little we know about the patho-physiological (causes, effects and nature of diseases, functioning of mechanisms that can contribute to it),” said Stephen Duntley, Shaw’s co-author.

“The wonderful thing about this new model is that it lets us begin to sort out some of the many potential mechanisms, genetic and otherwise, that may underlie insomnia, hopefully leading to new interventions” he added.

Shaw’s lab was the first to show that fruit flies enter a state of inactivity comparable to sleep. The researchers showed that flies have periods of inactivity where greater stimulation is required to rouse them.

Like humans, flies deprived of sleep one day will try to make up for it by sleeping more the next day, a phenomenon referred to as increased sleep drive or sleep debt, said a WUSM release.

The findings were published in the Wednesday edition of The Journal of Neuroscience.

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