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Nemuri: Scientists identify gene that triggers sleep during sickness

Date: 04 February 2019 Tags: Biotechnology

Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have identified single gene called nemuri (a Japanese word for sleep) that makes person sleepy when they are sick. This gene links sleep to immune system and provides potential explanation for how sleep increases during sickness. It was identified in study of over 12,000 lines of fruit flies. It was found that to extent of infection, stimulated overactive nemuri expressed in small set of fly neurons improves sleep.

Key Findings of Study

  • Nemuri gene fights germs with its inherent antimicrobial activity and drives prolonged, deep sleep after infection.It provides potential explanation for how sleep increases during sickness
  • It was found that flies with extra nemuri were better at fighting flu. When they were infected with deadly bacteria, nemuri-boosted flies survived longer than their non-boosted counterparts.
  • In response to infection, nemuri gene kill microbes, most likely in peripheral parts of fruit fly body and increased sleep through its action in the brain.
  • Abundance of nemuri also helped flies fight infection, thus presents clear connection between this sleep gene and immune system.
  • It was also found that flies lacking nemuri gene, were completely unable to manufacture its antimicrobial benefits.
  • However, nemuri gene is not all gene required for sleep or immunity. Without it, flies are still capable of sleeping, albeit more fitfully, and its absence doesn’t impair them in resisting infection.