In a new study, researchers found sleep could help clear out DNA damage accumulated during waking hours.
Maybe that is why humans and animals spend a third time of their lives sleeping.
The research was conducted by researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Previous studies have shown that DNA damage can be caused by radiation, oxidative stress, and even neuronal activity. DNA repair systems have to deal with the damage.
In waking time, DNA damage accumulates and can reach unsafe levels. At the same time, the chromosome dynamics are low and DNA cannot clean the damage effectively.
In the current study, the team examined sleep behavior in live zebrafish using 3-D time-lapse imaging techniques.
Zebrafish is a perfect subject for the study because of their physical transparency and a brain very similar to humans.
The team used a high-resolution microscope to observe the movement of DNA and nuclear proteins within the cell when the fish are awake and asleep.
They found sleep could help increase chromosome dynamics and clean DNA damage in every single neuron.
The researchers suggest that their results reveal a causal link between sleep, chromosome dynamics, neuronal activity, and DNA damage and repair.
The findings show a novel and unexpected function of sleep. The sleep function could explain how sleep and sleep disturbances affect brain functions, aging, and various brain disorders.
The study for the first time shows that single neurons require sleep in order to perform nuclear maintenance.
It could explain why sleep has remained universal and essential to all organisms with a nervous system throughout evolution.
The researchers suggest that despite the continuous threat of predators, animals have to sleep to allow the neurons to do DNA maintenance effectively.
The findings may help scientists understand the relationship between sleep and brain diseases.
A recent study showed deep sleep in human can improve the brain’s cleaning system, which could clean toxic proteins such as beta amyloid and tau.
These toxic proteins are linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The current findings are in line with this previous result and may help develop new methods to treat these diseases.
The lead author of the study is Prof. Lior Appelbaum, of Bar-Ilan University’s Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences.
The study is published in Nature Communications.
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