The discovery of the gene for narcolepsy in dogs by Dr. Emmanuel Mignot and his group at Stanford University School of Medicine has particular importance and significance for the fields of sleep and neurology and for patients with sleep disorders.
Dr. Mignot's study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the August 6 issue of Cell, opens the door to identification of the narcolepsy gene in humans and to development of new treatment approaches and possibly a cure for this disabling sleep disorder.
As important, this is the first time that the recently discovered family of brain neuropeptides known as hypocretins has been identified as a significant player in regulating sleep. This represents a giant step toward understanding the molecular basis of sleep, a major aim of sleep research at the National Institutes of Health. This discovery not only links a gene to a disease, but paves the way to an improved understanding of the fundamental nature of sleep and its contribution to human health and well-being and ultimately should help us treat and possibly prevent many other sleep disorders as well.