Scheduled feeding improves neurodegenerative symptoms in mice

Scheduled feeding improves neurodegenerative symptoms in mice

Disturbances in sleep/wake cycles are common among Huntington's disease (HD) patients with reports of delayed sleep onset, frequent bedtime awakenings, and fatigue during the day. The heterozygous Q175 mouse model of HD has been shown to phenocopy many HD core symptoms including circadian dysfunctions. Because circadian dysfunction manifests early in the disease in both patients and mouse models, authors sought to determine if early intervention that improve circadian rhythmicity can benefit HD and delay disease progression.  

Restricting meals to the same time each day improves motor activity and sleep quality in a mouse model of HD, according to new research published in eNeuro. These findings suggest that eating on a strict schedule could improve quality of life for patients with neurodegenerative diseases for which there are no known cures.

Researchers used a well-studied mouse line that models the genetic cause and symptoms of Huntington's disease, including sleep disruptions that appear to be a general feature of neurodegenerative disorders. By restricting food availability to a 6-hour period in the middle of the period when the mice are active, the researchers demonstrate in these mice improved performance on two different motor tasks and a more typical rhythm of daily activity.

 In addition, these mice showed improved heart rate variability, a marker of cardiovascular health, and more typical gene expression in the striatum, a brain region involved in motor control that is susceptible to degeneration in Huntington's disease.

This study, which manipulated the availability but not the quantity of food, point to time of feeding as an additional environmental signal that might work in conjunction with light to regulate the body clock.