This genetic mutation allows you to sleep only four hours a day without suffering health problems: the science that seeks to beat sleep
I'm going to need a little context. There is a scientist who wants to resuscitate mammoths, treat cancer with origami nanomachines, or fertilize a current human with a laboratory-created Neanderthal sperm. George Church, as the character is called, also has a list of 10 genetic mutations to introduce in all babies born from now on.
Today's study is not from Church, but, as our collaborator DrXaverius says, the mutation just discovered by Ying-Hui Fu and his team at the University of California, San Francisco is a great candidate to be on the mutation list. from the eccentric biologist at Harvard University.
"I am not asleep, I am resting my eyelids"
What I'm talking about? From a mutation of the ADRB1 gene that the team has located analyzing the genes of 12 members of a family that sleeps only 4 or 5 hours each night without feeling tired, or developing any type of health problem linked to lack of sleep.
To test the discovery, the team designed and raised a group of rats with the same mutation and found that they slept about 55 minutes less than expected per day. Furthermore, they found functional abnormalities in the neural region that regulates sleep.
Interestingly, the researchers found that if they activated neurons that seemed to be regulated by the expression of the ADRB1 gene, the rats woke up. That is, what this work suggests is that these specific neurons promoted wakefulness and, therefore, these genetic variations influence how long we sleep or are awake.
This mutation of the ADRB1 gene is added to other variants such as that of the DEC2 gene (also discovered by this team) that make people need less sleep without negative health consequences. "Most of those who get little sleep naturally are very happy with their sleep pattern, generally making the most of their extra time," Fu explained in New Scientist.
Therefore, the question of whether it is possible to intervene on gene expression to emulate this mutation or if we can design drugs that reproduce these effects. Fu acknowledges that it is a possibility, although we are still very far from it. However, he believes that we are facing a very powerful adaptation that will spread (with or without help) for humanity.
Not every day, as Dr Xaverius says, you have the opportunity to recover 15 years of your life for the vigil.