Research Report: Longevity means getting just enough sleep

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach. Her regular column features local science news.

By Lynne Friedmann

The secret to a long life may come with just enough sleep. The finding comes from a UCSD School of Medicine study in which nearly all 459 women subjects — monitored in the 1990s in a study to determine if sleep duration could be associated with mortality — were located or their deaths confirmed. Fourteen years had elapsed; the goal was to see who was still alive and well.

Previous studies, based upon questionnaires of people’s sleep habits, had posited that sleeping 6.5 to 7.5 hours per night was associated with best survival. To researchers’ surprise, the best survival was observed among women who slept 5 to 6.5 hours. Women who slept less than five hours a night or more than 6.5 hours were less likely to be alive at the 14-year follow-up.

The findings are published in the journal Sleep Medicine. News release at

Manipulating muscle stem cells

Adult stem cells reside in muscle tissue where they can differentiate into a number of different cell types. After an injury (or intense exercise), muscles are inflamed as cells and molecules flood the area to control damage and begin repairs. When called upon to replace muscle tissue damaged by injury or genetic disease, some muscle stem cells differentiate, becoming new muscle cells, while others make more stem cells. At Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, scientists have uncovered the molecular messengers that translate inflammatory signals into the genetic changes that tell muscle stem cells to differentiate.

This understanding will now be applied to efforts to help patients affected by diseases characterized by progressive muscle loss — such as muscular dystrophy — where the pool of stem cells capable of regenerating muscle becomes exhausted.

The findings appear in the journal Cell Stem Cell. News release at

Toward eliminating a tropical scourge

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have developed the first screening method that rapidly identifies individuals with active river blindness, a parasitic disease that afflicts an estimated 37 million people primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.

Humans acquire the disease after being repeatedly bitten by black flies that harbor the worm Onchocerca volvulus which breed near fast-moving rivers. O. volvulus larvae spread throughout the body triggering an immune response that causes acute dermatitis and tissue destruction that can lead to blindness if left untreated.

Currently available tests are unreliable indicators of infection because they often give false negatives. A sensitive and reproducible diagnostic test for this disease is considered crucial for the success of worldwide efforts to control and elimination of river blindness. The study appears in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. News release at

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Posted by Kathy Day on Oct 19, 2010. Filed under Columns, Health & Science, News, Research Report, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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