Surely it happened to you sometime. After a bad night, you feel like your brain isn’t working very well. It is not a temporary sensation. Scientists reveal that lack of sleep not only depresses mood, but damages the brain. Poor sleep can cause Alzheimer’s.
Scientists isolated a protein that is affected when mice do not get enough sleep. They expanded on previous findings about the negative effects of lack of sleep on the brain. Lack of sleep caused a decrease in the protein pleiotrophin (PTN). This led to the death of neuronal cells in the hippocampus. It is an important brain area for learning and memory.
“PTN is associated with cognitive impairment induced by sleep loss.” This is what the team from Binzhou Medical University (China) writes. The impact of insomnia on the cognitive abilities of the mice was evaluated. They tested their ability to navigate a maze and their short-term memory to recognize a new object. It was shown that 164 proteins manifested differently between insomniac and control mice.
Many of these proteins are linked to pathways in the hippocampus. They are related to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. The scientists then compared the cognitive data of the laboratory mice. The mice that performed worse lost levels of the PTN protein. Furthermore, when sleep function was restored in the insomniac mice, their PTN expression in the hippocampus increased.
PTN reduction in the hippocampus affects a cell death pathway. There is a greater risk of suffering cognitive problems from not getting enough sleep. These results highlight that PTN is a biomarker of cognitive difficulties related to sleep deprivation. They add to the growing body of evidence supporting the protective role of sleep in the brain.
PTN-null mice showed abnormal cognitive behavior in previous studies. Human studies implicate PTN in Alzheimer’s disease. Poor sleep can cause Alzheimer’s, without a doubt. «Our study provides a new biomarker of cognitive impairment induced by insomnia. “It is a new strategy to search for neurological biomarkers by integrating proteomics and systems genetics,” the authors conclude.