Blocking Sleep-Wake Protein Orexin May Treat Alzheimer’s

Blocking Sleep-Wake Protein Orexin May Treat Alzheimer’s
OrexinResearchers from the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) blocked a sleep-regulating protein, orexin, in mice with a form of Alzheimer's disease, making them sleep longer and blocking brain symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The research appeared Nov. 24 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine. In Alzheimer's disease, a sticky protein known as amyloid-β (Aβ) clogs up the brain, killing brain cells (neurons), disturbing memory and also disrupting the sleep-wake cycle. The accumulation of Aβ in the brain forms plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Also known as hypocretin, orexin is a molecule that controls wakefulness, as well as eating, motivation, and emotion. Orexin is thought to be important for maintaining regular sleep patterns. People with low orexin can have narcolepsy -- a condition associated with sleeping excessively. Levels of orexin in the cerebrospinal fluid have recently been found to be decreased in Alzheimer's disease, and these decreases correspond abnormal sleep patterns. According to an author of the study, David M. Holtzman, MD, head of the Department of Neurology, “If you stimulate orexin production in sleeping mice, they wake up immediately.” The scientists took mice that had been genetically modified to over-produce Aβ, creating a form of Alzheimer's disease. They also blocked the gene for orexin. Blocking the orexin gene reduced the
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