Cause of Human Narcolepsy Found

By  , Agency News
Jul 09, 2013
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Man in deep sleep

A new research has been conducted to find out that chemical histamine, which is produced by the brain cells, plays a key role in human narcolepsy. It is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes deep sleep. In 2000, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Sleep Research, published findings that showed narcolepsy affected people had 90 percent fewer neurons in their brains than healthy people.


Studies have been carried out by many groups to demonstrate that hypocretin is an arousing chemical that helps us to stay awake and elevates both mood and alertness. The researchers said that the death of hypocretin cells helps explain the sleepiness of narcolepsy, but it has remained unclear what kills these cells. The UCLA team of researchers has found another type of brain cell that contains histamine and may be the cause of the loss of hypocretin cells in human narcoleptics. Jerome Siegel, the UCLA professor of psychiatry reported in the journal Annals of Neurology that people with the disorder have nearly 65 per cent more brain cells containing the chemical histamine.


The research advises that excess of histamine cells causes the loss of hypocretin cells in human narcoleptics. To confirm this, researchers examined five narcoleptic brains and seven control brains from human corpses. Prior to death, all the narcoleptics had been diagnosed by a sleep disorder center as having narcolepsy with cataplexy. The researchers found that the humans with narcolepsy had an average of 64 per cent more histamine neurons.


Siegel, the senior author of the research said that humans and animals with narcolepsy share the same symptoms. Narcolepsy in the animal models is caused by engineered genetic changes that block hypocretin function, however, in humans, the cause is still not known. The current findings indicate that the increase of histamine cells in human narcolepsy may cause the loss of hypocretin cells.


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