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Experten entwickeln Bluttest, der Schlafmangel genau erkennen kann

von NFI Redaktion

Researchers at Monash University in Australia and the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom have developed a blood test that can accurately detect when someone has gone without sleep for 24 hours.

This level of sleep deprivation increases the risk of serious or fatal injuries in safety-critical situations.

Published in Scientific Advances, the biomarker utilized a combination of markers found in the blood of healthy volunteers. Together, these markers accurately predicted when study participants were awake for longer than 24 hours under controlled laboratory conditions.

The biomarker identified whether individuals had been awake for 24 hours and was correct compared to their own rested sample with a probability of 99.2 percent. When considering a single sample without the rest comparison (similar to a diagnostic blood test), the accuracy decreased to 89.1 percent, which is still very high.

With approximately 20 percent of traffic accidents worldwide caused by sleep deprivation, the researchers hope that the discovery can support future tests to quickly and easily identify sleep-deprived drivers. The biomarker could also be developed for other situations where sleep deprivation can have catastrophic consequences, such as safety-critical workplaces.

The lead author, Professor Clare Anderson, conducted the research while working at the Monash University School of Psychological Sciences and the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health. She is currently a Professor of Sleep and Circadian Science at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

„This is a truly exciting discovery for sleep scientists and could impact the future management of health and safety related to inadequate sleep,“ said Professor Anderson. „While more work is needed, this is a promising first step.“

„There is strong evidence that less than five hours of sleep is associated with unsafe driving, but driving after 24 hours of wakefulness, as we have identified here, would be at least comparable to more than double the Australian legal limit for alcohol consumption.“

The test may also be ideal for future forensic purposes, but further validation is required.

The first author, Dr. Katy Jeppe, from the Monash Proteomics and Metabolomics Platform, formerly from the School of Psychological Sciences, stated that it is difficult to say how quickly the test could be developed for post-accident use.

The next steps would be to test it in a less controlled environment and possibly under forensic conditions, especially if it is to be used as evidence in accidents involving falling asleep at the wheel.

– Dr. Katy Jeppe, First Author

This biomarker for sleep deprivation is based on periods of wakefulness of 24 hours or more, but can also detect wakeful periods of up to 18 hours. Further research is needed to combine the time since going to sleep with the amount of sleep in the predictions.

„If laws were to change and a sleep deprivation test were to be introduced in traffic or workplace settings, much work would still be needed,“ said Dr. Jeppe. „This would include further validation of biomarkers, as well as establishing safe sleep levels for prevention and recovery from impairments, not to mention the extensive legal process.“

„A biomarker could be developed for restricted sleep the previous night, and others have made progress in this regard,“ she added.

Sleep deprivation can also have fatal consequences for other safety-critical professions. Major disasters, including the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown and the Challenger space shuttle disaster, are believed to be partly attributed to human error related to fatigue.

„Objective tests that identify individuals at risk to themselves or others are urgently needed in situations where the costs of an error can be fatal,“ said Professor Anderson.

„Alcohol tests were a turning point in reducing traffic accidents and the associated severe injuries and fatalities, and it is possible that we can achieve the same with fatigue. However, much work is still needed to reach this goal.“

This research was conducted in collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety, and Productivity.


Journal Reference:

Jeppe, K., et al. (2024). Precise detection of acute sleep deprivation using a metabolomic biomarker – a machine learning approach. Scientific Advances. doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.adj6834.

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