Persistent lack of sleep negatively affects immune stem cells and increases risk of inflammatory disorders and heart disease | Mount Sinai


  • New York, New York
  • (September 21, 2022)

Chronic and insufficient sleep can negatively affect immune cells, potentially leading to inflammatory disorders and cardiovascular disease, according to a new study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. More specifically, consistently missing an hour and a half of sleep each night is likely to increase the risk.

The research was published on September 21 in Journal of Experimental MedicineHe is the first to show that sleep alters the DNA structure within immune stem cells that produce white blood cells – also known as immune cells – and this can have a long-lasting effect on inflammation and contribute to inflammatory diseases. Immune cells fight infection, but if the number of these cells increases too much, they overreact and cause inflammation. The study is also the first to show that sleep compensation does not reverse the effects of disrupted sleep.

This study begins to identify the biological mechanisms linking sleep and long-term immune health. In humans and mice, disrupted sleep is shown to have a profound effect on the programming and rate of production of immune cells, causing them to lose their protective effects and making infections worse—and these changes are long-lasting. This is important because it is another key observation that sleep reduces inflammation and, conversely, interruption of sleep increases inflammation,” says lead author Philip Swirsky, PhD, director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Icahn Mount Sinai. “This work underscores the importance of Adults sleep consistently seven to eight hours a day to help prevent inflammation and disease, especially for those with underlying medical conditions.”

A team of researchers analyzed 14 healthy adults who regularly slept eight hours a night. First, the researchers watched them sleep at least eight hours each night for six weeks. They drew their blood and analyzed their immune cells. Then, the same group of adults reduced their sleep time by 90 minutes each night for six weeks, and their blood and immune cells were reanalyzed. At the end of the study, the researchers compared blood and cell samples from full-night sleep and restricted sleep periods. All of the participants had significant changes in their immune cells (also known as hematopoietic cells) due to the lack of sleep — there were more of them, and their DNA makeup changed. After six weeks of sleep restriction, they had an increased number of immune cells.

The researchers also analyzed sleep in mouse models. Groups of mice were either allowed to sleep undisturbed, or had sleep disruption, as they were awakened overnight for 16 weeks. Subsequently, the rats affected by the sluggish sleep underwent a ten-week continuous recovery period. The researchers took immune stem cells and immune cells from mice during these unperturbed, fragmented, and sleep-restoring phases, and analyzed and compared them at the end of the experiment. The results in mice were consistent with results in humans. They showed that all of the mice with fragmented sleep had significant changes in their immune stem cells, resulting in an increased number of immune cells, and they also showed evidence of rewiring and reprogramming. A notable finding from the group of mice was that even after recovering from sleep, the immune stem cells retained this rewiring structure, and went on to produce additional white blood cells, making the mice susceptible to inflammation and disease.

Our findings suggest that sleep recovery is not able to fully reverse the effects of poor sleep. We can reveal the molecular fingerprint of inadequate sleep in immune stem cells, even after weeks of recovery sleep. This molecular fingerprint can cause cells to respond in inappropriate ways that lead to inflammation and disease,” says co-lead researcher Cameron McAlpine, MD, assistant professor of medicine (cardiology) at Icahn Mount Sinai. It was surprising to find that not all responded Stem cell clusters for insufficient sleep in the same way. There were some stem cell clusters that proliferated and increased in number, while other clusters got smaller. This decrease in the overall diversity and aging of immune stem cell populations is an important factor in inflammatory and cardiovascular disease.”

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Instituteand the National Center for the Development of Translational Sciences Part of the National Institutes of Health, helped fund this study.

appearance: The effect of insufficient sleep on immune stem cells

a description: The left side of the figure shows when the people in the study fell asleep. Participants in the sleep restriction group (red dots) slept less during the six weeks. Right side of the figure stem cell analysis. The first graph shows that people in the sleep restriction group (red dots again) had more stem cells. The rest of the figure represents “DNA structure and reprogramming. Red and blue show rewiring sites in the genome.” The bottom “peaks” are specific genes that the researchers looked at and show rewiring at these sites.


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