Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Zebrafish and Sleep

I don't know about you, but I have noticed a definite change in my sleep/wake cycles since the appearance of autoimmune disease: Often it's more difficult for me to fall asleep, and upon awakening feel as though I have not had a restful night's worth of sleep even though I may have slept for eight or more hours.

I'm not alone - sleep disturbances of various types are documented repeatedly in autoimmune disease as well as the often-accompanying conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. But is it the disease - or the medications used to treat these disorders causing the sleep disturbances?

So it was with interest that I read this study which examined sleep and wakefulness pathways. Scientists at Harvard University discovered a surprising similarity between zebrafish and mammals:
 ...that despite the evolutionary gap between them, zebrafish and mammals may be strikingly similar in the neurochemistry underlying their rest/wake cycles, meaning these same compounds may prove effective in people. 
The scientists then examined zebrafish's response to various chemicals and the resulting change in sleep/wake cycles:
...the researchers identified 463 drug candidates that significantly altered rest and wakefulness, many of which had not previously been known to have such effects. 
 Behavioral profiling reveals nuanced relationships between drugs and their targets," Schier says. "It can characterize large classes of compounds and reveal differences in effectiveness, potential side effects, and combinatorial properties that might not otherwise be detected." 
Results were published this week in the journal Science.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always wondered how fish could sleep. And now I discover they are more like us than we though before.

Since I have Sjogren I describe myself as a marmot. I need so much more sleep than before !!