Goal 2: Reduce Human Disease


We need to understand sleep and circadian disorders at a more mechanistic level. This applies to both the pathogenesis of these disorders and to their impact on health. New neurobiological and molecular tools facilitate this research. The focus needs to be not only in brain but also the impact of these disorders on future of peripheral organs. The elucidation of the fundamental functions of sleep and the impact of sleep fragmentation on these functions opens up a new paradigm for research. This type of research will facilitate translational research.

Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? Critical Challenge (CC)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC

Much of the research on the consequences of sleep/circadian disorders has focused on their consequences or behavior. This type of research needs to be continued and there are new opportunities in this area. These behavioral studies need to be established in model systems to parallel studies in humans. In addition, new neurobiological approaches, including optogenetics and use of DREAD, provide new tools for this investigation. Moreover, we now have powerful molecular tools to evaluate effects of sleep/circadian disorders both in humans and animal models. These include microarrays, RNA seq, etc. Moreover, genetic studies, e.g., in restless legs syndrome, have identified gene variants conferring risk for the disorder. We do not know, however, how these particular genes are involved in the pathogenesis of the disorder or whether they represent potentially targets for drug intervention. There is a need for studies both in animal models and in humans to elucidate the function of these genes. Studies in other areas are obtaining stem cells from biopsies in patients and then turning these into relevant target cells such as neurons to elucidate gene function using in vitro approaches.
The impact of this effort will be the following:

a. Taking our understanding of pathogenesis of sleep and circadian disorders to a new level.
b. Understanding the consequences of sleep and circadian disorders on different end organs at a more in-depth molecular level.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC

The sleep and circadian field have access to all the major cells systems for these studies—C. elegans, aplysia, Drosophila, zebra-fish, mice, etc. Moreover, there are already gene variants identified in human studies which require follow-up functional studies. The field has the expertise in all of the techniques described above. Moreover, there are more validated animal models for many of the common sleep disorders. Thus, this new approach is very feasible. 

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea Sleep Research Society



179 net votes
232 up votes
53 down votes
Idea No. 664