Do you or your child struggle with sleep? What can we learn from the humble fly?
Research published in Nature Communications recently out of the University of Geneva identifies the NF1 gene as being involved in regulating the sleep/wake cycle (circadian rhythm) of flies.
This gene is known to be well preserved across species between flies and humans.
“When a person carries a mutation in the NF1 gene, he or she has neurofibromatosis, a common genetic disease that predisposes to the development of nervous system tumors. One of the symptoms of patients with neurofibromatosis is sleep disturbance, and it will be interesting to explore the potential role of NF1 in this phenomenon”, states Prof Emi Nagoshi, whose lab conducted the research.
While this study used flies as a model, Dr. Natalie Pride (pictured) from Children’s Hospital at Westmead’s NF1 Learning Clinic says “Many of the molecular mechanisms that sub-serve sleep are similar between flies and humans. This makes animal models, such as the Drosophila Fly, a tool to offer unique insights into the molecular and cellular mechanisms that may be awry and contributing to sleep problems in people. The research involving the Drosophila Fly shows a role for the NF1 gene in sleep regulation. This research adds to the growing body of research involving animal models of NF1 that suggest changes in the biological process involved with the sleep/wake cycle (i.e. circadian rhythms) may underpin these sleep problems.”
Dr. Pride says “Persistent sleep loss or poor quality sleep can have profound affects on emotional state and behaviour, cognitive function and performance at school, family cohesion, general quality of life, mental health and also physical well-being."
Having noted that some of the children she sees in clinic coupled with parent reports in research studies indicating that in up to 50% of children with NF1 have trouble with sleep has led Dr Pride and her to develop a study to describe the sleep disturbances experienced by children with NF1 and through a comprehensive assessment of their sleep-wake cycles in hopes that they can identify biopsychosocial factors that contribute to poor sleep for children with NF1 and lead to future research into interventions.
Further information about the research in flies can be found here:
A single gene can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle - Department of Genetics & Evolution - University of Geneva (unige.ch)
For more about Dr. Natalie Pride’s USA Department of Defence funded sleep disturbance in NF1 project visit the Research Updates page on our website.