Research On Narcolepsy: What Have We Got?

What’s going on with the research on narcolepsy? Found any cure yet? I am one of those people diagnosed with  the disease and I am hoping for a breakthrough really. What I am going through is stressful enough, and the waiting is killing me… literally. Please keep us updated. 

 

Narcolepsy is an illness characterized by sudden sleep attacks that could occur at any time and place due to excessive daytime sleepiness. It is often accompanied by muscle weakness and paralysis, vivid dreaming and trance-like behavior. This is a neurologic disorder and a lot of people have been affected with this disorder. The United States alone has about 1 case in every 2000 Americans.

This disorder affects almost 200,000 Americans but very few are properly diagnosed and given treatment, probably because research on narcolepsy treatment is still ongoing. In fact, extensive research on narcolepsy and what causes it is keeping experts busy. Once a definite cause has been pinpointed, treatment would follow.

According to Stanford University School for Narcolepsy, the second leading cause of excessive daytime drowsiness following obstructive sleep apnea is narcolepsy. This is probably one of the most debilitating illnesses one could ever have. Not to mention that this is incurable. At least not right now. Research on narcolepsy would prove to be a very big help not only to the individuals affected with the disease but to the other members of the family as well who are suffering with them.

Research on narcolepsy was pioneered by Stanford University Sleep Clinic, the first medical clinic to specialize in sleep disorders. They were the first to find out that hypocretin has everything to do with narcolepsy. They found out that there is a marked decrease in hypocretin brain cells in narcoleptics compared to normal ones. Instead of hypocretin cells, researchers found scar tissue, which could suggest that narcolepsy may not be hereditary.

Researchers are making use of brains donated by narcoleptics. It was through this method that the hypocretin-narcolepsy link was found out. There is a National Brain Bank where these brains used in narcolepsy research are being kept. They are also encouraging narcoleptics to donate their brains at their demise to help further the ongoing research. Now, this may sound a bit morbid, but if we consider the amount of help it would give to narcoleptics in generations to come, donating a brain would be tantamount to heroism.

Currently, research on narcolepsy is focused in determining what causes this hypocretin depletion. It could be autoimmunity, it could be ingested toxins, or it could also be due to environmental factors. A lot of possibilities are at play and with the advancement of research on narcolepsy, we expect more to come. Decades of research have been devoted to finding the exact cause of narcolepsy but the current data gathered is not enough to determine the proper treatment. But with the help of today’s technology, we’re expecting results. And fast.