29 December 2007

Wake Up! Hypocretin 1 Makes Sleep Optional

Orexin A (hypocretin-1) is a peptide hormone that according to recent research has the ability to keep monkeys awake. Now the US Military is attempting to show that it can do the same for humans.
Orexin A is a promising candidate to become a "sleep replacement" drug. For decades, stimulants have been used to combat sleepiness, but they can be addictive and often have side effects, including raising blood pressure or causing mood swings. The military, for example, administers amphetamines to pilots flying long distances, and has funded research into new drugs like the stimulant modafinil and orexin A in an effort to help troops stay awake with the fewest side effects.

...The research follows the discovery by Siegel that the absence of orexin A appears to cause narcolepsy. That finding pointed to a major role for the peptide's absence in causing sleepiness. It stood to reason that if the deficit of orexin A makes people sleepy, adding it back into the brain would reduce the effects, said Siegel....Any commercial treatment using the substance would need approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which can take more than a decade.Wired

What else can the orexins do besides help monkeys stay awake? Orexin reportedly also increases the craving for food.

Clearly there is a lot to be learned about the effects of these peptide hormones. This hormone has the potential to be a drug of abuse, if the FDA drags its feet too long.

Hat tip Impact Lab

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Blogger Half Sigma said...

There must be some reason why all animals sleep, because it doesn't seem to have much of a survival advantage. It's easy to be killed while asleep.

Sunday, 30 December, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Excellent point, HS.

I suspect that soldiers and pilots might get away with 72 hours without sleep, using a combination of modafinil, Orexin A, and any other effective methods.

I once worked an entire 60 hour shift without sleep--using only moderate quantities of coffee. I must not have killed anyone, because when I showed up for the next 60 hours no one made any comments....

Eventually, the lack of sleep would push the person into a psychosis that could only be cured by sleep.

The big money is in learning how to prevent that sleep-loss psychosis. I have some ideas...but I would rather wait for the development and perfection of some of Aubrey de Grey's gerontological engineering techniques first.

Sunday, 30 December, 2007  

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