November 30, 2011

The "Morning Person" Gene

German scientists have potentially discovered a genetic reason why some people are morning people whereas others are night-owls.

The gene called ABCC9 dubbed "morning person" gene was identified by analyzing 4251 individuals who reported their sleeping pattern.

The ABCC9 variant type and number of copies significantly affected the number of hours of sleep. To confirm this finding, scientists modified the ABCC9 gene in the fruit fly and obtained similar results.

The gene codes for a protein that senses the energy metabolism of a cell, but how this relates to sleep is unclear. The gene is also associated with other conditions including heart disease and diabetes which probably helps explain why quality of sleep seems to be associated with these disease processes.

In the past, it was thought that poor sleep "caused" cardiovascular problems, but just maybe, sleep problems and heart problems are caused by a common genetic trigger rather than one causing the other.

A K(ATP) channel gene effect on sleep duration: from genome-wide association studies to function in Drosophila. Mol Psychiatry. 2011 Nov 22. doi: 10.1038/mp.2011.142. [Epub ahead of print]
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Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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