Metabolic diseases are rampant in the modern societies. Recent research has found a connection between poor sleep quality and progression of liver disease, type 2 diabetes and weight gain.

Studies in Dobrian Lab, working with the Sanford Lab, are designed to determine if fragmented, or broken, sleep can worsen illnesses like diabetes and liver disease. The research focuses on tiny particles called extracellular vesicles that travel from cell to cell. Once thought of simply as tiny garbage collectors, the extracellular vesicles are now believed to carry messages and critical material from cell to cell like a microscopic postal system.

The researchers are focused on understanding how organs communicate via the extracellular vesicles, and how sleep can impact these messages.

Liver fibrosisTwo images are side by side, the control image has larger and fewer bubble structures than the image on the right

When damaged due to obesity and diabetes, the liver can create a scar tissue called fibrosis. Over time, it can lead to cirrhosis and liver will eventually fail to function.

By using a mouse model of Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH, frequently associated with obesity and diabetes, researchers reveal liver fibrosis scarring captured in the images on the right (red color). When subjected to sleep fragmentation, mice are building more scar tissue faster (right picture) compared to control mice with normal sleep (left picture).

Two images side by side on the left are significantly more small green particles while on the left are few green particles and more purple ones.Compromised Insulin Production

The pancreas releases insulin in the bloodstream to help cells use glucose. Those with prediabetes often don't respond to insulin because their cells become resistant to using the insulin present. CINID researchers studied insulin production in prediabetic mice. The image on the left shows a control pancreas of a mouse that was not subject to disrupted sleep. The image on the right of a mouse subjected to sleep fragmentation shows that insulin production (in green), in the pancreatic islets, has been significantly reduced.

Lead resarcher for Metabolic Diseases

Anca Dana Dobrian PhD, FAHA