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Scientists developing blood test for drowsy driving

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(HealthDay News) -- Here's a welcome alert: Scientists say they're inching closer to a blood test for drowsy driving.

A computer algorithm effectively differentiated between sleep-deprived and well-rested people by picking up changes in expression of certain genes, British researchers report.

"Identifying these biomarkers is the first step to developing a test which can accurately calculate how much sleep an individual has had," said Simon Archer, a professor of molecular biology of sleep at the University of Surrey in England.

"The very existence of such biomarkers in the blood after only a period of 24-hour wakefulness shows the physiological impact a lack of sleep can have on our body," he added in a university news release.

Researchers said the breakthrough might lead to a blood test that could determine if drivers haven't had enough sleep. Drivers who are even one to two hours short on shuteye are nearly twice as likely to get into an accident, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety data.

For the study, 36 people pulled an all-nighter. Researchers collected blood samples over 40 hours to measure thousands of genes and look for changes in their expression levels.

The study, published Sept. 23 in the journal Sleep, identified 68 genes that could reveal those who hadn't slept. The accuracy rate was 92 percent, the researchers said.

"This is a test for acute total sleep loss," said Derk-Jan Dijk, director of the Surrey Sleep Research Center. "The next step is to identify biomarkers for chronic insufficient sleep, which we know to be associated with adverse health outcomes."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on drowsy driving.

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