Wouldn’t it be good if you could know that the truck driver in the lane next to you on the interstate isn’t about to fall asleep? Or, if the pilot of the plane you’re getting ready to board didn’t stay up far too late last night? The work of a scientist at Washington University in St. Louis may get us to that point.
Researcher Paul Shaw, PhD says he has identified a human gene that is more active after sleep deprivation. Shaw and his colleagues plan to use the information to create a panel of tests for sleep loss. The tests may one day help assess a person’s risk of falling asleep, for example, behind the wheel of a car or airplane.
Scientists have known for years that sleep disorders and disruption raise blood serum levels of interleukin 6, an inflammatory immune compound. Shaw showed that this change is also detectable in saliva samples from sleep-deprived rats and humans.
Based on this link, Shaw tested the activity of other immune proteins in humans to see if any changed after sleep loss. The scientists took saliva samples from research participants after they had a normal night’s sleep and after they stayed awake for 30 hours. They found two immune genes whose activity levels rose during sleep deprivation.
Results of the study were published in the most recent edition of the journal PLOS One.