Why some people find it difficult to wake up in the morning

Thursday, February 17, 2011

LONDON - Scientists at Northwestern University have found a new mechanism in the core gears of the circadian clock.

They have discovered that the loss of a certain gene, dubbed “twenty-four,” messes up the rhythm of the common fruit fly’s sleep-wake cycle, making it harder for the flies to awaken.

The circadian clock drives, among other things, when an organism wakes up and when it sleeps. While the study was done using the fly Drosophila melanogaster, the findings have implications for humans.

“The function of a clock is to tell your system to be prepared, that the sun is rising, and it’s time to get up,” said Ravi Allada, who led the research at Northwestern.

“The flies without the twenty-four gene did not become much more active before dawn. The equivalent in humans would be someone who has trouble getting out of bed in the morning.”

Period (per) is a gene in fruit flies that encodes a protein, called PER, which regulates circadian rhythm. Allada and his colleagues found that twenty-four is critically important to producing this key clock protein. When twenty-four is not present very little PER protein is found in the neurons of the brain, and the fly’s sleep-wake rhythm is disturbed.

The research has been published Feb. 17 in the journal Nature. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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