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This Week’s Articles in PresS Highlights

Bethesda, Md. (August 19, 2015)—The American Physiological Society Articles in PresS are the latest findings in physiology and the health sciences published ahead-of-print. Read this week’s highlights on new treatments for fibromyalgia and a dairy-derived protein discovered to be a prebiotic that holds promise for treating gastrointestinal conditions and obesity.

Researchers Identify Potential Sleep-Related Treatment Targets for Fibromyalgia 

Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain from no clear source. Patients with fibromyalgia frequently have sleep problems: Their deep sleep brain wave patterns are often disrupted by brain waves that correspond to wakefulness. Previous studies have suggested that these irregular wave patterns worsen and may cause the pain. In a new study in Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers constructed a computational model that recreated the sleep patterns observed in patients with fibromyalgia to understand how the abnormal patterns arose.

The research team focused on the molecular targets of sodium oxybate, a drug reported to improve sleep in patients with fibromyalgia. They found that altering the activity of three specific targets—GABAB currents, the potassium leak currents and hyperpolarization-activated thalamic currents—restored sleep patterns in their model. Surprisingly, altering just the potassium leak currents or the hyperpolarization-activated thalamic currents could also restore normal deep sleep wave patterns. According to the researchers, drugs acting on one of these targets in the thalamus, a region in the brain that regulates sleep, might be enough to prevent disrupted sleep and its related adverse effects and provide relief to patients with fibromyalgia. In addition, “since no animal models of fibromyalgia exist, our model provides a much-needed tool for understanding what makes current fibromyalgia drugs efficacious and for finding more effective drugs,” the researchers wrote.

The study “Thalamic mechanisms underlying alpha-delta sleep with implications for fibromyalgia” is published ahead-of-print in the Journal of Neurophysiology.

Prebiotic Dairy Protein Promotes Digestive Health and Holds Therapeutic Promise 

The protein glycomacropeptide (GMP) is derived from whey, the liquid by-product of the cheese-making process. GMP contains low amounts of the amino acid phenylalanine. Individuals who suffer from phenylketonuria—a metabolic disorder that causes cognitive impairment when phenylalanine level is too high—can use GMP as an alternative protein source. GMP supplementation has also been observed to improve gastrointestinal health by protecting the digestive system from pathogens and by having an anti-inflammatory effect. A new study in American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology shows that the protein is a prebiotic: It causes changes to the gut microbiota that benefit the host. The researchers observed that mice that ate GMP as their protein source had fewer bacteria associated with inflammatory bowel disease, enhanced gastrointestinal function and reduced inflammation.

“There is considerable evidence that dietary prebiotics modulate the gastrointestinal microbiota with therapeutic applications to conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and bone health,” according to the researchers. “Palatable functional and medical foods can be made with GMP, and such foods may be beneficial in the management of phenylketonuria, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease,” the researchers wrote.

The study “Glycomacropeptide is a prebiotic that reduces Desulfovibrio bacteria, increases cecal short chain fatty acids and is anti-inflammatory in mice” is published ahead-of-print in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or 301-634-7209. Find more research highlights in the APS Press Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.