Insomnia or sleeplessness is a sleep disorder characterised by difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep.Â Symptoms of insomnia are recognised in most adults at some point during their lives. This common public health problem affects approximately 30%-50% of the general population and an estimated 10% of people face the problem of chronic insomnia worldwide. Current management of insomnia with use of benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotic medications are not selective for deep sleep and associated with cognitive impairments and drug dependence.
In a collaborative research conducted by a team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University, Italy, the researchers identifies the central role of the melatonin receptor in the brain to encourage deep, restorative sleep. Research disclosed secrets of melatonin, also known as the “sleep hormoneâ€ which lead to invention of new drug molecule.
According to the results of study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, identification of melatonin receptor and its key role in promoting deep sleep leads to development of a new drug called UCM765, which selectively activates melatonin receptor.
Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a researcher in psychiatry at the RI-MUHC and the study’s principal investigator said:
â€œWeâ€™ve spent many years developing medications that act selectively on a single melatonin receptor to specifically promote deep sleep, which we believe is the key to curing insomnia. Deep sleep has significant restorative effects, as well as the ability to increase memory and boost metabolism, while lowering blood pressure and slowing the heart rate.”
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is hormone secreted into blood by the pineal gland situated in the brain, in darkness (Harmon of darkness) in both diurnal and nocturnal animals. Changing level of this circulating hormone maintain sleep pattern and circadian rhythms in both human and animals.
Sleep cycle is mainly constituted with rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-REM sleep.MT1 and MT2 are two chief melatonin receptors present in brain, which have exactly opposite roles in sleep regulation.MT1 receptors induces REM sleep and hinder non-REM sleep, while MT2 receptors promotes non-REM sleep which causes deep sleep.
Professor Tarzia in Urbino and Professor Mor in Parma, Italy, lead to formulate the new drug molecule called UCM765 in collaboration with group of chemist. Respective drug selectively binds to the MT2 receptor and increases the phases of deep sleep in rats and mice. UCM765 particularly acts in a reticular thalamus, a brain area which is the main operator of deep sleep. Interesting fact about this drug is that it increases the duration of deep sleep while keeping the REM sleep episodes same. This is not generally seen with traditional medications used to treat insomnia.
Dr. Vassilios Papadopoulos Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the RI-MUHC said, â€œThe development of this pharmacology by means of targeting deep sleep receptors to treat insomnia represents a major advancement in our ability to deal with this common health problem that affects people worldwide.”
[box type=”important”]Discovering the role of MT2 receptors in deep sleep is a major scientific achievement. In the future, it may lead to the development ofÂ new drug formulation that specifically target MT2 receptors in brain to treat insomnia. Further, this research also explicates the small-scale hypnotic effect of the over-the-counter melatonin pills, which act on both contradictory receptors and hence fail to cause deep sleep.[/box]