Another benefit from galantamine …
Galantamine May Combat Sleep Deprivation-Induced Amyloid


An interesting new study published online in Science indicates that lack of sleep increases the build-up of amyloid-beta, and thus may worsen Alzheimer’s disease.1 Of all the physiological manifestations of this most common form of dementia, the accumulation of amyloid-beta plaque in the brain is the most characteristic, followed by neurofibrillary tangles. This finding is among the first to associate lack of sleep with Alzheimer’s disease.

Using mice engineered to have a version of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis studied levels of amyloid-beta that were affected by whether the animals were awake or asleep. Amyloid levels rose in their brains when the mice were awake, but fell when they slept. To make things worse, when the researchers prevented the mice from sleeping, amyloid rose even more so than when they were merely awake, according to Dr. David Holtzman of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, who was a principal researcher in the study. “Sleep deprivation markedly accelerated amyloid-beta plaque formation,” Dr. Holzman said in an e-mail to reutershealth.com.2

Then the researchers injected orexin, a compound that regulates sleep, into the brains of the mice. The mice stayed awake longer, and amyloid beta levels rose, but when orexin was blocked, amyloid levels decreased. Orexin is used in the sleep disorder narcolepsy, a condition which causes excessive sleepiness. As per Dr. Holtzman, these findings suggest that drugs that target orexin may be useful to try as Alzheimer’s treatments. In addition, these findings also reinforce the necessity to treat sleep disorders—not only for the immediate problems that they cause—but due to the fact that they may have a long-term impact on brain health, said Dr. Holzman.

The dismal news is that there are few effective treatments for addressing Alzheimer’s, despite a great many years of research. Alzheimer’s remains a mind-kleptomaniac, stealing our most precious memories. There is currently no cure.

However, the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor galantamine has been found, along with its ability to agonize nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, to enhance sleep—galantamine has been found to have a positive effect on sleep disorders3 and has been found to help to maintain good sleep4—and based on this recent research, that may indeed be another feather in its cap to help control Alzheimer’s disease.

It is estimated by the Alzheimer’s Association that more than 35 million people globally will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia in 2010.

1. JE, Lim MM, Bateman RJ, Lee JJ, Smyth LP, Cirrito JR, Fujiki N, Nishino S, Holtzman DM. Amyloid-beta dynamics are regulated by orexin and the sleep-wake cycle Published online 24 September 2009 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1180962] (in Science Express Reports)
2. Steenhuysen J. Lack of sleep may play role in Alzheimer’s: study. Reuters Health Report, September 24, 2009.
3. Anon. Galantamine (reminyl) in the treatment of severe Alzheimer’s disease]. Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova 2009;109(7):57-61.
4. Chankrachang S, Senanarong V, Poungvarin N, Phanthumchinda K, Tavichachart N, Praditsuwan R, Nidhinandana S. The effect of Galantamine on sleep quality in Thai Alzheimer’s disease patients. J Med Assoc Thai 2008 Sep;91(9):1343-9.

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