Sleep is known to support the proper functioning of the body, including the brain, allowing us to rest, recover and recharge. Countless neuroscientists and medical researchers have sought to better understand this important biological process, but much of its neural underpinnings are still unknown.
Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) are conducting a study investigating the role of astrocytes, a subtype of glial cells known to regulate various functions in the brain and body in sleep and wakefulness. Masu. Their latest paper neuroscience journalshow that activation of astrocytes in the basal forebrain (brain regions that support sleep, wakefulness, and regulation of body temperature) keeps mice awake indefinitely without showing signs of drowsiness.
“Our study was part of a larger study of the brain cells and circuits that make us sleepy,” Marcos Frank, one of the researchers who conducted the study, told Medical Xpress. Ta. “Scientists call it the ‘sleep drive,’ but in fact, there is no complete explanation for the sleep drive. As far back as 2009, a class of non-neuronal cells called glial astrocytes “We published the first evidence that Astrocytes influence sleep drive in vivo. Since then, we have sought to understand the precise role of astrocytes in sleep and wakefulness.”
A major aim of recent research by Frank and his colleagues was to better understand how astrocytes in the basal forebrain influence sleep, wakefulness and overall sleep motivation. To do this, the researchers used a series of advanced genetic and chemical techniques to reversibly alter astrocyte activation in the mouse basal forebrain.
“We used ‘chemogenetics’ techniques to express receptors for small molecules that are not normally expressed in the mammalian brain,” Frank explained. “When activated by a special drug, this receptor activates astrocytes. We combine this with standard measures of brain and motor activity to determine whether animals are awake or asleep. judge.”
To confirm that the observed effects were specifically associated with astrocyte chemogenetic activation, the researchers observed the same mice under similar circumstances without astrocyte activation. Several control experiments were also performed. Ultimately, the researchers observed that activation of basal forebrain astrocytes kept the mice awake for hours without the typical signs of drowsiness.
“The mice appeared to be awake at no ‘cost,’ in other words, there was no increased desire to sleep,” Frank said. “This was unexpected for us and has several important implications. First, our results question the notion that the need for sleep is generated by wakefulness itself. may require a specific set of interactions between brain cell subtypes.”
Overall, the recent findings collected by this team of researchers highlight the critical role of several neuron-glial circuits in regulating sleep motivation and wakefulness. In the future, it could pave the way for exciting new discoveries about the neural underpinnings of sleep, potentially enabling the development of drugs that help people stay awake longer and more alert. have a nature.
“Imagine a world where shift workers don’t get sleepy and astronauts, pilots, soldiers, medical workers and first responders don’t have to sleep for long periods of time.” added Frank.
“We are in the very early stages of this process, but if this were to happen, the limits of human performance would be forever changed. We focus on understanding what happens next in the chain of events when we transform, this causes changes in the neurons around us, and how does that explain our results? What normally controls this process in a healthy brain? Is this astrocyte-activated arousal the same as normal arousal? These are all questions we hope to answer in future research. I have a question.”
For more information:
Ashley M. Ingiosi et al, Activation of basal forebrain astrocytes induces wakefulness without compensatory changes in sleep drive. neuroscience journal (2023). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0163-23.2023.
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