Narcolepsy May Be Autoimmune Disorder

Boy sleeping at desk

Though, narcolepsy is rare, effecting only one out of 2000 people, it is a serious and debilitating disorder. There may be some good news, for patients struggling with narcolepsy. New research may confirm the long held belief that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disorder. This news may lead to treatment breakthroughs in the near future.

Emerging results from a study conducted at the University of Lausanne claim their “findings indicate for the first time the presence of identified and autoreactive antibodies in human narcolepsy” Although it had long been suspected that narcolepsy may be cased by an autoimmune disorder, this is the first study to confirm the hypothesis.

Recently, a team of scientists in Switzerland using genetically engineered mice have identified autoantibodies targeting the protein associated with regulating sleep in patients with narcolepsy with cataplexy. Simply put, in patients with narcolepsy, these autoantibodies, or immune molecules, are targeting the body’s friendly or natural protein rather than a protein from an infectious agent.

Autoimmune disorders result when the body’s immune response mistakenly reacts, or over reacts, to other naturally occurring tissues or substances within the body and attacks healthy cells. While in most instances the body attacks foreign pathogens to fight disease, the body attacks itself in an autoimmune disorder. While the focus of this study was narcolepsy, it may also positively impact how the over 100 known autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s Disease, Guillian-Barre Syndrome, and Diabetes are treated in the future.

As researchers continue to look at the gene variants involved, they may soon be able to identify people who may be predisposed to the development of narcoleptic symptoms and prevent the problem from developing. Though it is not an exhaustive study, it is an important finding and may impact how all autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and juveni