Degeneration of sleep quality with age is a well-documented phenomenon. While much is known regarding the characterization of this decline, remarkably little of the physiology or genetic underpinnings are understood. Age-related sleep changes in rodents (mice + rats) are remarkably similar to those seen in human populations and as such these animal models are frequently used to study the aging process. However, the current state-of-the-art technology necessary for measuring sleep in rodents requires surgical implantation of EEG and electromyograph (EMG) probes. Drawbacks to this process include the need for an invasive and time-consuming animal surgery paired with a prolonged recovery period. The time component is extremely slow as the animal must recover from surgery and acclimate to the recording chamber and tether before normal sleep can be evaluated. Additionally, biofouling of the implanted screws and decay of the chronic implant alters signal quality over time and restricts long-term recordings to only a few continuous months. Labor expenses include the need to hire an expert technician to run the equipment, undertake surgery and evaluate sleep data. To overcome these difficulties we plan to use accelerated video hardware, 3-D video monitoring and a deep red grid (invisible to the rodent) to measure sleep state. In Phase I of this application, Pinnacle Technology Inc and the University of Pennsylvania Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology will create a working prototype (software, electronics, and hardware) for non-invasive detection of sleep state in rodents. Specifically, this system aims to be the first commercial device designed to record and automatically analyze wake, NREM and REM sleep in rodents using non-surgical, non-invasive techniques. A unique benefit to this design is that it will be capable of continuously recording sleep-wake architecture from the same animal across the lifespan. The system, once validated, can easily be used as a large-scale screening tool to rapidly screen hundreds of animals. Commercial applications of such a device are already being sought by major pharmaceutical companies as they explore new potential gene products for targeted therapy.
It is estimated that at least 40 million Americans suffer each year from chronic, long-term sleep disorders while an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. As people age, sleeping disorder are more prevalent;more than 50 percent of people older than 64 have a sleep disorder. Economically, poor sleep accounts for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year and the indirect costs of lost productivity and other factors are known to be much higher.