Scientists are making a push to study how the processes of sleep and hunger co-operate.
Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have developed a new method that gives them the ability to study multiple processes in fruit flies.
The researchers focused on Drosophila melanogaster—a fruit fly often used as a model for studying human conditions and genetics.
They have developed a new open-source, customizable technique for jointly studying multiple fly behaviors, providing a cleaner, simpler strategy to investigate previously convoluted questions.
“We’re hoping that this paper creates a community around the tool and people come up with new uses,” graduate student Keith Murphy said in a statement. “If others get on board, this thing could change what a small lab can do.”
During the study, the researchers first found that caffeine does impact sleep in fruit flies, similar to humans, but the sleep loss could not be explained solely by caffeine intake, which could lead to a focus on hunger and how it relates to sleep.
The researchers gave groups of flies varying levels of dietary caffeine and measured how much the flies slept in the following 24 hours. They also studied whether varying levels of caffeine impacted the insects’ feeding behavior by measuring how much they ate over the same 24-hour period.
The results showed that sleep loss could be mediated by changes in the animal’s feeding behavior.
“There could still be a pharmacological effect but there’s definitely dietary inputs to that,” Erin Keebaugh, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Associate Professor William Ja’s Laboratory at TSRI, said in a statement.
The study reinforced the idea that the processes of sleep and eating should be studied together, particularly as a growing number of researchers investigate the link between sleep and metabolic disorders.