Recent research has shed new light on the sleep/wake cycle. In two papers featured on the cover of the July 10 issue of Cell (J.L. Price et al., Cell, 94:83-95, 1998; B. Kloss et al., Cell, 94:97-107, 1998), scientists from Rockefeller University reported the discovery of a gene in Drosophila, dubbed double-time (dbt). The dbt gene is believed to regulate the molecular cycles underlying circadian rhythms--patterns of activity that, in humans, regulate body temperature, mental alertness, pain sensitivity, hormone production, and the sleep/wake cycle. Better understanding such patterns may help researchers elucidate the mechanics of sleeping disorders, make drug delivery more effective and efficient, and improve the acclimation of persons working night shifts.

In 1995, the senior author of both papers, Michael W. Young , director of the NSF Science and Technology Center for Biological Timing at Rockefeller, and colleagues showed that circadian...

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