In March, science editor, Ian Sample, wrote an article titled “Sleep Helps to Repair Damaged DNA in Neurons, Scientists Find” for The Guardian. The piece describes a recent research experiment intended to determine whether neuron restoration is one of the functions of sleep. According to Sample (2019), the activity is ubiquitous among animals, but its purposes are still unknown. However, a recent study confirmed that sleep deprivation leads to DNA damage, contributing to the proposition that sleep could prevent such harm. An experiment was conducted using zebrafish that were genetically engineered so that chromosome movements in their neurons would be easier to see.
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The fish were then observed while awake and asleep, both naturally and due to drugs, using a powerful microscope. The researchers found that the chromosomes in the fish’s neurons would often change shape while their owners slept, enabling the repair of the damage accumulated in periods of activity. The findings can be extrapolated to humans due to the existence of prior research with similar results. The author links the study with lifestyle and work patterns, suggesting that the matter deserves consideration.
The article most likely concerns the type of correction known as mismatch repair. Of the three variations described by Rye et al. (2017), this one is the best match because it does not occur immediately during DNA replication and appears to be more appropriate for the nervous system than nucleotide excision repair. It should be noted that the article does not provide an explanation of the repair mechanism, so it is possible that a different method is employed.
Nevertheless, the knowledge contained in the textbook helps in the clarification of the phenomenon. In particular, Rye et al. (2017) discuss repair in the context of faulty DNA replication, a distinction not made in the Guardian article. Someone that does not know this detail may assume that it is the existing information that requires repair, not taking reproduction into consideration. Such a reader would likely fail to associate DNA damage with the dangers described by Rye et al. (2017), which consist of mutations and their consequences, including cancer. One who is aware of the meaning of DNA damage would inspect the findings more seriously.
I found the article interesting because it concerns sleep, an activity all humans and most animals consider an integral part of everyday life. Sleep deprivation is known to be dangerous and harmful for a variety of reasons that include reduced cognitive ability. I have personally experienced the effects for short intervals in the past and believe that my performance was considerably and adversely affected. The study suggests that the impact may not be entirely mental and can include physical harm, and, as Sample (2019) notes, one’s long-term health should be considered in lifestyle choices and work shift planning.
I have not examined the matter from the perspective of the nervous system before, viewing it in terms of general physical fatigue and the associated risk of injuries. However, the findings suggest that insufficient amounts of sleep can lead to harm regardless of my safety, and damage to the nervous system is challenging to repair. It is possible that the practice may even lead to cancer, though such a claim would require extensive research into the matter. Overall, the provided information has led me to reconsider my habits.
Rye, C., Wise, R., Jurukovski, V., DeSaix, J., Choi, J., & Avissar, Y. (2017). Biology. Houston, TX: Rice University.
Sample, I. (2019). Sleep helps to repair damaged DNA in neurons, scientists find. The Guardian. Web.