Swiss Scientists Discover Molecules That Trigger Narcolepsy

NarcolepsyScientists from University of Lausanne, Switzerland, believe they have identified immune molecules that target a natural protein in the body, which triggers narcolepsy in some individuals.

Narcolepsy is a health disorder that sparks sudden daytime bouts of tiredness or sleep, and this find may prove to be the barrier-breaking point that could open up new avenues for treatment.

The researchers, in a statement at Geneva and Lausanne Universities, said, "The protein, called Trib2, is produced by neurons that also secrete the substance hypocretin, which helps keeps people awake".

Led by Professor Mehdi Tafti, co-Director of the sleep laboratory at Vaud University Hospital in Lausanne, the new research has identified auto antibodies, rather than a protein from an infectious agent, that target the natural protein Trib2 in narcolepsy patients with cataplexy. The antibodies end up destroying the hypocretic neurons.

Professor Tafti said, "Treatment with immunoglobulin, which is commonly used for auto-immune diseases of the nervous system, had shown 'extraordinary results'".

The statement added, "The sleep disorder disappeared in most of the patients treated soon after first symptoms".

The Swiss researchers hope to discover reasons which could also shed more light on the way the human body handles sleep.

The study appears in the early online edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.