Gene that affects sleep found

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Washington, Aug 14 (ANI): Scientists from University of California, San Francisco have identified a genetic mutation that might help explain why some people are active even after six hours of sleep rather than normal eight hours of sleep.

The study showed that mutation in a gene known as hDEC2 helps in regulating the optimal length of human sleep.

"Short term and chronic disruptions in the length of optimal sleep can have serious consequences on cognition, mood and physical health, including cancer and endocrine function," said the senior author of the study, Dr Ying-Hui Fu, UCSF professor of neurology.

The finding, she says, offers an opportunity to unravel the regulatory mechanism of sleep.

During the study, the team identified a small extended family in which a mother and her adult daughter had life-long shorter daily sleep requirements than most individuals.

They studied blood samples from these women and their extended family and identified a mutation in a gene known as hDEC2, which is a transcription factor that represses expression of certain other genes and is implicated in the regulation of circadian rhythms.

The team later genetically engineered mice and fruit flies to express the mutated human gene, and studied the impact on their sleep patterns.

The analysis showed that mice slept less over the course of 24 hours.

The team compared the response of the genetically engineered mice and normal mice to the consequence of six hours of sleep deprivation. The engineered mice needed to compensate for their lost sleep to a much lesser extent.

"These changes in sleep homeostasis in the mutant mice could provide an explanation for why human subjects with the mutation are able to live unaffected by shorter amounts of sleep throughout their lives," said Fu.

The study appears in journal Science. (ANI)

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