Challenging the widely accepted notion that the brain controls sleep, a study has found a protein in the muscle can lessen the effect of sleep loss in mice.
The finding - a collaboration between UT Southwestern's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute and two other medical centers - gives scientists a new target besides the brain to develop therapies for people with excessive sleepiness.
Study author Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi from UT Southwestern Medical Center said that the finding is completely unexpected and may change the way people think sleep is controlled.
The research demonstrates how a circadian clock protein in the muscle - BMAL1 - regulates the length and manner of sleep.
The result indicated that that mice with higher levels of BMAL1 in their muscles recovered from sleep deprivation more quickly and in addition, removing BMAL1 from the muscle severely disrupted normal sleep, leading to an increased need for sleep, deeper sleep and a reduced ability to recover.
Dr. Takahashi said the finding may eventually lead to therapies that could benefit people in occupations requiring long stretches of wakefulness, from military to airline piloting.
"These studies show that factors in muscles can signal to the brain to influence sleep. If similar pathways exist in people, this would provide new drug targets for the treatment of sleep disorders," said Dr. Takahashi.
The study was a collaboration between UT Southwestern Medical Center, Morehouse School of Medicine, and the University Florida.
A new study shows that a protein in the muscle can lessen the effects of sleep loss in mice, a revelation that challenges the widely accepted notion that the brain controls all aspects of sleep.
Mice with higher levels of the BMAL1 protein in their muscles recovered from sleep deprivation more quickly. Removing BMAL1 from the muscle led to a reduced ability to recover.
Such treatments could benefit people in occupations requiring long stretches of wakefulness, from military to airline piloting.
The study appears in the journal of eLife.