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Orexin A: Nasal drug can replace sleep, party non-stop

12.28.2007 @ 3:26 PM in Technology
 sleep.jpg I can only imagine the many ways I could abuse this new drug, probably the reason why it won't hit the pharmacy for years...
  • - A nasal spray of a key brain hormone cures sleepiness in sleep-deprived monkeys. With no apparent side effects, the hormone might be a promising sleep-replacement drug. In what sounds like a dream for millions of tired coffee drinkers, Darpa-funded scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness. A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery's first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy. The treatment is "a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign," said Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and a co-author of the paper. "It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess." 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 (.pdf) and orexin A in an effort to help troops stay awake with the fewest side effects. The monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. The monkeys given orexin A in a nasal spray scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired.
There's a few catches though. One, once taken off the drug, the effect is the reverse: narcolepsy. The other is that you tend to have a heightened appetite and can lead to unwanted weight gain. Plus, not enough research has been put into the long term effect of sleeplessness.  We sleep for a reason, and as much as I like to bend the rules by druggin up on ephedrine, my body always crashes me down in the end, resulting in a com-like saturday drowning in a pool of my own saliva as my Skylar nibbles on my ear like a scavanged mouse. But really, who cares? I'm sure the narcoleptic folk are thrilled to hear this news, and worried about workaholic club kids like me who would love to subvert all warnings just so we can look end up like meth-heads without the track marks. Party on Wayne.