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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sleep Problems and Alzheimer's Connected

A new discovery may help explain the
surprisingly strong connections between sleep problems and
neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. Sleep loss
increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and disrupted sleeping
patterns are among the first signs of this devastating disorder.

Scientists at Washington University
School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Pennsylvania have
shown that brain cell damage similar to that seen in Alzheimer's disease
and other disorders results when a gene that controls the sleep-wake
cycle and other bodily rhythms is disabled.

The researchers found evidence that
disabling a circadian clock gene that controls the daily rhythms of many
bodily processes blocks a part of the brain's housekeeping cycle that
neutralizes dangerous chemicals known as free radicals.

"Normally in the hours leading up to
midday, the brain increases its production of certain antioxidant
enzymes, which help clean up free radicals," said first author Erik
Musiek, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at the School of
Medicine. "When clock genes are disabled, though, this surge no longer
occurs, and the free radicals may linger in the brain and cause more
damage." MORE

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