A study to be published in the February 2007 issue of Nature Medicine reveals a new method of promoting sleep by blocking a certain type of protein receptor. The proteins -- known as orexins -- are found in the brain and are important to keep you awake.
Orexins gained notoriety after the discovery that the brains of people with narcolepsy -- a condition in which patients suddenly and unexpectedly may fall sleep -- lack these molecules. They were not considered to be good targets to promote sleep in insomniacs, as people with narcolepsy also experience other problems such as cataplexy -- loss of muscle tone.
The new study, by François Jenck and colleagues, shows that blocking the orexin receptors encourages sleep without cataplexy in rats, dogs and humans. Their blocker is more efficient and has less secondary effects than other sleep-promoting agents, pointing to the orexin receptors as suitable targets for the development of new hypnotic compounds.
François Jenck (Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Allschwil, Switzerland)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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