Not only biological clock and alternation of dark and light: in the regulation of sleep and its alternation with periods of wakefulness, the immune system also comes into play. The discovery, published in the magazine Glia, is Italian-led and sheds light on a phenomenon that is still largely mysterious. Coordinated by the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology of the Sapienza University of Rome, the research has shown for the first time the role that the sentinel cells of the brain, those of microglia, play in the regulation of sleep, which constitute the first line of immune defense of the majority. organ complex.
Now it has been discovered that, thanks to their interaction with nerve cells, the cells of the microglia also contribute to regulating the duration of sleep. The Molecular Medicine department of Sapienza and the National Research Council (Cnr) participated in the research, alongside universities and international research centers.
“Microglia also regulate the duration of the sleep phase in mice through the chemokine receptor CX3CR1, highly expressed in these cells where it plays important roles during development and maturation of the central nervous system,” observes research coordinator Cristina Limatola. The research was conducted on mice that, deprived of microglia cells, show an increase in nRem (non-rapid eye movement) sleep phase and alterations in transmission between synapses in the hippocampus, the main area of the brain involved in the formation of long-term memory. The result, the researchers note, helps unravel the mechanisms underlying the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle and opens up new perspectives on the role of glia cells in brain functioning.
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