LOS ANGELES, CA – Recently, UCLA scientists have discovered that the brain which controls sleep is located outside the brain and therefore, the drug to cure insomnia will not target the brain’s functions. According to scientists, Bmal1 is a crucial gene located in the skeletal muscles that regulates sleep patterns.
Bmal1 is also called aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator-like protein 1, which is basically a protein in humans that is encoded by the ARNTL gene. Increasing the levels of this gene through a drug can help to combat sleep deprivation.
Scientists conducted this research on mice by using molecular genetic techniques to turn the levels of Bmal1 on and off in the mice’s bodies. Then, they kept the mice awake for a period of 24 hours. The results showed that mice with increased Bmal1 slept for fewer hours than the other mice after sleep deprivation. Thus, increasing Bmal1 in the skeletal muscle led to the mice being able to tolerate more sleep loss, suggesting that the skeletal muscle communicates with the brain directly.
The senior author of this study is Ketema Paul, an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA. Paul said she thinks that scientists missed the connection between Bmal1 and insomnia previously because they were too focused on studying the brain. In the future, Paul is interested in analyzing the specifics of how the skeletal muscle communicates with the brain.
She also hopes to identify which exact gene Bmal1 is affecting. Chronic sleep deprivation can ultimately lead to heart disease, diabetes, infections and other life-threatening illnesses. As such, this new cure to insomnia can offer patients with a healthy drug which specifically targets the source of insomnia, without creating side effects in the brain.
I definitely think this new research will help to better the lives of insomniacs in the world, especially taking into consideration the stressful lifestyles that people in the 21st century lead today.