Sleep Protein Could Lower Risk for Alzheimer’s

While researchers have been looking at the complex relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease for years, there is still so much to understand and learn. A new study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is shedding new light on the relationship between the two.

The study found tSleep Protein Could Lower Risk For Alzheimer'shat increased levels of a sleep protein that triggers wakefulness led to an increased build of beta-amyloid in the brain, the accumulation of which is a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s. Learn more.

The Relationship Between Sleep and Alzheimer’s

A new study  from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis revealed that a protein in the brain called orexin may be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s. The study was published in the November issue of The Journal of Experimental Medicine. While previous studies have linked sleep disturbances to the onset of Alzheimer’s, exactly how lack of sleep contributes to the disease is largely unknown.

To learn more about the relationship between the two, researchers bred mice that were genetically predisposed to to develop beta amyloid proteins with mice that did not have the gene for orexin, a protein in the brain that lets the brain know it is time to wake up after being asleep.

The offspring of the mice that did not have the orexin protein had significantly less beta amyloid proteins which would indicate a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. Then, they reversed the experiment and found that by increasing levels of orexin, the mice slept less and had significantly more beta amyloid plaques, suggesting an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

Blocking Orexin for Alzheimer’s Prevention

David M. Holtzman, M.D., head of the Department of Neurology and lead author of the study said:

“This indicates we should be looking hard at orexin as a potential target for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.”

He continues, “Blocking orexin to increase sleep in patients with sleep abnormalities, or perhaps even to improve sleep efficiency in healthy people, may be a way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. This is important to explore further.”

The research team is continuing to explore the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s by studying how sleep medication could affect the build up of beta amyloid plaque.

What do you think about the complex relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s? Are you interested in the relationship between the two? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • First let me thank Ms. Sauer for her article, I would agree that sleep (or the lack thereof) probably was a contrributing factor in my Mother’s health, she has since passed on (Sept. ’13) due to complications from Alzheimer’s.
    I did want to mention a typo in your title: Sleep Protein Could Lower Risk for Alzheimer’s, rather it should read: Sleep Protein INCREASES Risk for Alzheimer’s. I believe this was an honest mistake and I simply wanted to let you know and hopefully correct it. With so much information coming to light every day about this devastating illness, those effected and those who care for them need to know and be given the right information which they can in turn discuss with their doctor(s) as to the proper course of “treatment”. Even though there is no cure, there are ways to try and slow down the progression, sadly due to other health issues my Mother had to contend with, her progression came faster than one would have expected.
    Without question raising awareness is key and fighting this disease!

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