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Gene Distinguishes Early Birds from Night Owls and Helps Predict Time of Death
Date:11/16/2012

veral years ago while Lim was working in the laboratory of BIDMC Chief of Neurology Clifford Saper, MD, PhD. Lim and the other lab members were studying why older people have trouble sleeping and had joined a research project based at Rush University in Chicago involving 1,200 people who signed on as healthy 65-year-olds and would receive annual neurological and psychiatric examinations.

The cohort's original intent was to determine if there were identifiable precursors to the development of Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease. As part of the research the subjects were undergoing various sleep-wake analyses using a wristband called an actigraph, which provides a reliable record of an individual's pattern of activity. Additionally, in order to provide the scientists with information on sleep-wake patterns within a year of death, the participants had agreed to donate their brains after they died.

But the investigation took a new turn when Lim learned that the same group of subjects had also had their DNA genotyped. Teaming up with investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), Lim and his colleagues compared the wake-sleep behavior of these individuals with their genotypes. These findings were later verified in a group of young volunteers.

They soon discovered a single nucleotide near a gene called "Period 1" that varied between two groups that differed in their wake-sleep behavior. At this particular site in the genome, 60 percent of individuals have the nucleotide base termed adenine (A) and 40 percent have the nucleotide base termed guanine (G). Because we have two sets of chromosomes, in any given individual, there's about a 36 percent chance of having two As, a 16 percent chance of having two Gs, and a 48 percent chance of having a mixture of A and G at this site.

"This particular genotype affects the sleep-wake pattern of virtually everyone walking around, and it is a fairly profound effect so that the people w
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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