CAMDEN While the thyroid has long been linked to metabolism, cutting-edge research underway at Rutgers UniversityCamden is investigating the possibility that thyroid hormones have an important role in sleep regulation.
Thanks to a $415,369 grant from the National Science Foundation, a team of Rutgers-Camden researchers will pinpoint precisely how and when thyroid hormones influence the brains sleep-related structures. Findings could yield new knowledge on a previously unknown sleep-regulatory substance and potentially answer why existing sleep medications arent the cure-all for everyone.
Joseph V. Martin, a professor of biology, is the principle investigator and Alex Roche, an associate professor of chemistry, is the co-principal investigator of the ambitious project at Rutgers-Camden.
A diagnosis of thyroid cancer in 1991 inspired Martins in-depth studies of thyroid hormones for over a decade. Martin has been cancer-free since the removal of his thyroid gland, but his need to compensate for its absence with pills has been educational.
I have to adjust the dose regularly with my doctor. If its too high, I have sleeping problems, if its too low there could be lethargy and weight gain, he points out.
Martins professional research has informed his own understanding of his condition. Once he became aware of thyroid hormones effect on the brain, he saw connections to his own life and to unsolved problems related to the role of thyroid hormones in the nervous system.
Martins previous research established that in the adult brain, thyroid hormones act on receptors on the outside of cells, functioning like neurotransmitters. His findings contrast greatly with the well-documented functions of thyroid hormones, which are secreted from a gland located in the neck and increases cellular activity in nearly all tissues of the body by acting inside cells.