'Super-sleepers' can Store Enough Energy to Combat Obesity

by VR Sreeraman on Jun 30 2009 5:25 PM

In a new research, a team of scientists has found that animals that sleep longer store energy for a long duration, a finding that can be useful in the treatment of obesity.

Many species of animals go through a period of torpor to conserve energy when resources are scarce.

But, when it comes to switching to energy-saving mode, the champion by far among vertebrates is the burrowing frog (Cyclorana alboguttata), which can survive for several years buried in the mud in the absence of any food or water.

Now, a team of scientists at the University of Queensland, Australia, have discovered that the metabolism of their cells changes radically during the dormancy period allowing the frogs to maximize the use of their limited energy resources without ever running on empty.

This discovery could prove to have important medical applications in the long term.

"It could potentially be useful in the treatment of energy-related disorders such as obesity," explained scientist Sara Kayes.

When the operation efficiency of the mitochondria, the tiny "power plants" of the cell, was measured during the dormancy period, it was found to be significantly higher compared to that observed in active animals.

This trick, known as mitochondrial coupling, allows these frogs to be extremely efficient in the use of the limited energy stores they have by increasing the total amount of energy obtained per unit consumed, allowing them to easily outperform other species whose energy production efficiency remains essentially the same even when they happen to be inactive for extended periods.