This web page was produced as an assignment for an undergraduate course at Davidson College.
Public Media Portrayal
Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art
Title: Mutation Tied to Need for Less Sleep Is Discovered
Author: Tara Parker-Pope
Source: The New York Times
Publication Date: August 13th, 2009
Parker-Pope describes scientific research (He et al., 2009) in terms accessible to the public audience. She begins by stating the potential implications for the discovery, stating that researchers have identified a genetic mutation "that might open the door to understanding human sleep patterns and lead to treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorder" (Parker-Pope, 2009). She also notes that this is a landmark discovery, as it is the first identification of a genetic mutation tied to differential sleep behavior.
The article goes on to recognize the limitations of the study. For instance, Parker-Pope notes the small sample size carrying the mutation, saying "... the mutation has been identified in only two people..." (Parker-Pope, 2009). Additionally, she describes the methods the researchers used, including DNA sequencing of humans and the generation of transgenic mice and flies carrying the mutation, and quotes praise for the research from an expert on sleep not involved in the study.
Parker-Pope retells the story of He et al.'s research, beginning with the identification of two short-sleepers with this mutation in a human population and leading to the development of transgenic animals. She states the results of the study plainly, saying "When scientists bred mice with the... mutation, the animals slept less and recovered quicker from periods of sleep deprivation compared with regular mice" (Parker-Pope, 2009).
Regarding the implications of the research, Parker-Pope quotes the corresponding author, Dr. Ying-Hui Fu, directly or refers to her interpretation: "Dr. Fu said her 'fantasy' was that the finding might eventually lead to a safe treatment for people who wanted or needed more awake hours..." (Parker-Pope, 2009). Parker-Pope also relates the finding to her general audience, again using Dr. Fu as a source of expertise: "Dr. Fu said that while many people might sleep only six or fewer hours a night, most were not naturally short sleepers. For instance, they use stimulants and alarm clocks to maintain a shortened sleep schedule" (Parker-Pope, 2009).
The Short Sleeper Gene & Mutation
The Short Sleeper Home Page
Charles Ford's Home Page
He, Y., Jones, C. R., Fujiki, N., Xu, Y., Guo, B., Holder, J. L., Rossner, M. J., Nishino, S., and Fu, Y. 2009. The Transcriptional Repressor DEC2 Regulates Sleep Length in Mammals. Science. 325: 866-870.
Parker-Pope, T. 13 August, 2009. Mutation Tied to Need for Less Sleep Is Discovered. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/14/health/research/14sleep.html. 29 January, 2012.
Biology Home Page
Email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2011 Department of Biology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28035