Archive for June, 2017
You lay awake at night, staring at the ceiling. Closing your eyes doesn’t help, nor can you get comfortable as you toss and turn to find the right position. You’ve finally come to the conclusion that you cannot fall asleep. These are the sure signs of someone with an insomnia condition.
Many cases of insomnia are considered psychological, as it is caused by stress. Other cases have shown that the disorder is associated with other conditions like chronic pain, heart failure, and hyperthyroidism. Unfortunately, scientists have had a hard time pinpointing what exactly causes insomnia.
A new study seems to unravel a bit of this mystery. Researchers, made up of an international team, discovered that insomnia isn’t purely psychological, as some have suggested in the past. The team discovered seven risk genes for insomnia in an in-depth study.
Proving the Insomnia Condition Is More
“As compared to the severity, prevalence and risks of insomnia, only few studies targeted its causes. Insomnia is all too often dismissed as being ‘all in your head’. Our research brings a new perspective. Insomnia is also in the genes,” says Professor Eus Van Someren, one of the lead researcher of this international project.
After testing 113,006 individuals, the team was able to find the seven genes related to insomnia. These genes are also involved in the process of transcription and exocytosis. One of the genes, MEIS1, is associated with other sleeping disorders like Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS) and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). Using assistance from the Institute of Neurogenomics at the Helmholtz Zentrum, München, Germany, the team found that the genetic variants contribute to PLMS, RLS, and insomnia.
Emotional Disorders and Gender
Another interesting fact is that these genes are also connected to behavior conditions. Anxiety, depression, and neuroticism have long been associated with insomnia. Now it appears that they genes that are causing insomnia are contributing to these emotional disorders.
“This is an interesting finding, because these characteristics tend to go hand in hand with insomnia. We now know that this is partly due to the shared genetic basis,” says neuroscientist Anke Hammerschlag (VU), PhD student and first author of the study.
Another finding showed the difference between men and women with the condition. “We also found a difference between men and women in terms of prevalence: in the sample we studied, including mainly people older than fifty years, 33% of the women reported to suffer from insomnia. For men this was 24%,” states Professor Danielle Posthuma, another of the study’s lead researchers.
Hope for the Future
Professor Someren hopes that their study can inspire others to look more into the insomnia condition. Learning about the connection between the disease and these genes is important for developing new treatment methods. Hopefully, they begin to understand the disease better. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention linked insomnia to accidents and mistakes on the job and along the road. Another study reports that 10 percent of adults in the U.S. have chronic insomnia. These people deal with the condition three times a week.
One of the most difficult aspects of the sleep apnea condition is identifying it. This disorder often goes undiagnosed, as no blood test exist to indicate if an individual has sleep apnea. Even worse, apparent symptoms, like snoring or pauses in your breath, only occur during sleep. Unless a person with sleep apnea is being monitored after they go to bed, they are otherwise unaware of their symptoms.
While sleep apnea may seem like a harmless condition but over time it significantly effects the body. Left untreated, sleep apnea leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. The disorder can also lead to an increased chance of having work-related or driving accidents. With an early diagnosis, patients can avoid these comorbidities from developing. A new disposable diagnostic patch hopes to make identifying the condition a reality.
Detecting One’s Sleep Apnea Condition
The skin-adhesive diagnostic patch (known as the SomnaPatch) monitors several factors to determine if a patient has a sleep apnea condition. By measuring nasal pressure, blood oxygen saturation, pulse rate, respiratory effort, sleep time and body position, doctors have several variables to work with.
“Our study provided clinical validation of a new wearable device for diagnosing sleep apnea,” said principal investigator Maria Merchant, Ph.D., CEO of Somnarus Inc. “It was most surprising to us how well this inexpensive miniature device performed in comparison with in-lab sleep studies.”
Another impressive aspect of the patch is how accessible it is for patients.174 who subjects participated in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s analysis. Using simultaneous polysomnography and patch recorders, they were able to discover signs of the disorder. Afterward, subjects took a home usability study, which determined that 38 of the 39 users successfully used the patch without any issues. Following the instructions, they were able to activate and collect a little more than 4 hours of sleep data.
“Most home sleep diagnostic devices are difficult for patients to use and are disruptive to patient’s sleep,” said Merchant. “Our study showed that this wearable home sleep monitor is very comfortable, easy to use and does not negatively affect sleep.”
Dr. Merchant explains that her team wants to put these positive results to good use. The researchers hope to present the patch and gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Detecting Sleep Apnea
This technology is still in the process of approval. If you live with a family member or life partner, have them monitor your sleep. They should tell if you are snoring loudly, restless, or wake up unexpectedly during sleep. You should also pay attention to how your body feels during the day. A lack of energy, sleepiness, morning headaches, and other symptoms are telltale signs of the condition.
You should see a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms. See an otolaryngologist, who treats conditions that affect the ears, nose, and throat. They can perform certain procedures, like Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery and Balloon Sinuplasty, to improve your breathing and help you sleep better at night.
Allergies are a major cause of stress and discomfort for millions of people around the world. In America alone, we have approximately 50 million people suffering from this disease. Various medicines and treatments exist to ease allergy symptoms; however, these methods are no cure. Scientists at the University of Queensland are looking into a possible life-long treatment for severe allergies. Find out if there’s hope for a cure.
How Allergies Work
An allergy is a response from your immune system, an indicator that you are hypersensitive to certain substances. These allergens vary from person to person. Some people are allergic to certain plants, foods, drugs, materials or bugs. Even dust in the air is a potential allergen for someone suffering from the disease. When the body comes into contact with any of these allergens, it overreacts, causing allergy sufferers to experience coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, and more.
New Allergy Treatment
In a study using animal, Associate Professor Ray Steptoe at the UQ Diamantina Institute essentially ‘turned-off’ the immune response.
“Our work used an experimental asthma allergen, but this research could be applied to treat those who have severe allergies to peanuts, bee venom, shell fish and other substances,” says Professor Steptoe. “We take blood stem cells, insert a gene which regulates the allergen protein and we put that into the recipient. Those engineered cells produce new blood cells that express the protein and target specific immune cells, ‘turning off’ the allergic response.”
This research could mean significant progress towards curing allergy sufferers of their dilemma. Most current allergy treatments are effective but temporary. Patients have to keep taking these treatments and medications to relieve symptoms.
Professor Steptoe explains that “When someone has an allergy or asthma flare-up, the symptoms they experience results from immune cells reacting to protein in the allergen. The challenge in asthma and allergies is that these immune cells, known as T-cells, develop a form of immune ‘memory’ and become very resistant to treatments.”
The Next Step in Research
The gene therapy is still in its early stages. Now that the animal trails have proven successful, Professor Steptoe hopes to move onto the next step – human trials.
“We have now been able ‘wipe’ the memory of these T-cells in animals with gene therapy, de-sensitising the immune system so that it tolerates the protein,” says Professor Steptoe. “We haven’t quite got it to the point where it’s as simple as getting a flu jab, so we are working on making it simpler and safer so it could be used across a wide cross-section of affected individuals.”
Professor Steptoe is working from Australia, which has more than 2 million residents with allergies. By testing the gene therapy with human cells, scientists can discover if the treatment is effective in people. The researchers might also discover if the gene therapy negatively effects the immune system altogether. For now, more research needs to be done and hopefully, it can lead to a single treatment cure for people suffering from allergies.
If you have allergy symptoms, we suggest visiting an ENT doctor. They have experience helping patients find a way to live with allergy symptoms.
As children, our parents always told to go to sleep early and that getting enough rest is good for the body. We know that sleep is good for the body, but have you ever wondered how? Does better sleep mean better benefits for the body? Well, deep sleep can help with heart health, your immune system, and so much more. One aspect of deep sleep, in particular, helps our learning efficiency. It is possible for this process to be interrupted. In a recent study by researchers at the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, they developed a non-invasive method for affecting deep sleep in humans.
Receiving Better Sleep Is Important
A lack of sleep does more than just make you sluggish and tired throughout the day. The nerve cells in our body, called synapses, remain active as we receive information from the environment around us. Once we go to sleep, those active synapses return to normal. However, if we do not receive proper rest, those nerve cells stay active and new information becomes harder to process. Sleep deprivation and other disorders impede your ability to retain new information. This malfunction in your ability to learn can affect how your mind operates.
How Researchers Manipulated the Brain
“We have developed a method that lets us reduce the sleep depth in a certain part of the brain and therefore prove the causal connection between deep sleep and learning efficiency,” says Reto Huber professor at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich and of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UZH.
The study tested several subjects, six women, and seven men. Each of the subjects performed tasks that required them to master three different motoric tasks through finger movements. Once each day ended, the subjects went to sleep. During the first night, they were allowed to sleep uninterrupted. However, after the second night, the experiment truly began. Unbeknownst to the patients, the researchers manipulated the motor cortex using acoustic stimulation.
The effect of the manipulation was not apparent at first. During the morning, the subject performed the motoric tasks and finger movements as usual. As the day went on, however, the subjects made more and more mistakes. This is a contrast compared to the first day of testing, where the patients performed positively. After receiving better sleep again, the subjects exhibited the same results as the first day.
Nicole Wenderoth, professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at the ETH Zurich, explains that “In the strongly excited region of the brain, learning efficiency was saturated and could no longer be changed, which inhibited the learning of motor skills.”
What We Can Learn From This Study
This study is another example of why sleep health and deep sleep is necessary. Brain disorders could affect sleep the same way the researchers did. Huber explains that “Many diseases manifest in sleep as well, such as epilepsy. Using the new method, we hope to be able to manipulate those specific brain regions that are directly connected with the disease.”