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 that 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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