Scientists have found that there are certain genes involved in replenishing the cells in our brains. It seems that they are activated during sleep, according to a study in mice.
Researchers have shown that genes coding for the production of a substance known as myelin, vital for insulating the circuitry of the brain and permitting electric impulses to be fired, are activated during sleep. In contrast, genes implicated with dying cells and stress were found to be switched on when mice were sleep-deprived. In the past, most sleep researchers focused on how the activity of nerve cells differs when animals are awake versus when they are asleep, now it seems clear that the way other supporting cells in the nervous system operate also changes significantly depending on whether the animal is asleep or awake.
The researchers sequenced the whole genome of a particular type of brain cell known as an oligodendrocyte in mice after sleep, wakefulness, and sleep deprivation. These cells are involved in producing the myelin 'sheaths' that insulate nerve cells. They found that the production of cells that become oligodendrocytes doubled during sleep and particularly during cycles of rapid eye movement, which is associated with dreaming. Although the study was conducted in mice, the researchers say the findings suggest that chronic sleep loss might aggravate some symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that damages myelin. These findings hint at how sleep or lack of sleep might repair or damage the brain. This is important information for all individuals concerned with sleep issues. The results were published in The Journal of Neuroscience