Lhx6-expressing GABAergic Neurons of the Zona Incerta Promote both REM and non-REM Sleep

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Unmet Need

Adequate sleep quality and quantity are increasingly being recognized as important for mood and cognition with therapeutic implications for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Currently available sleep aids are subject to poor efficacy, abuse liability or adverse effects which include poor sleep quality characterized by blunted rapid eye movement (REM) and deep non-REM sleep. Soporific drugs broadly target specific neurotransmitter systems including GABA, histamine, melatonin, and orexin, but none selectively activate neuronal subpopulations involved in sleep-wake regulation. Identification of a specific subset of neurons that promotes sleep could offer a new therapeutic target for sleep aid development.


Technology Overview

This invention describes the identification of a novel subpopulation of Lhx6-expressing GABAergic neurons (in the ventral zona incerta) that promote sleep quality and quantity. Targeted activation of these neurons could represent a novel strategy for the development of a selective sleep-inducing therapy.


Stage of Development

This neuronal subpopulation has been identified in mice. Specific pharmacological manipulation of these cells using Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADD) technology has been successfully used to modify sleep quality and quantity.
Liu K, et al. Nature. 2017 Aug 31;548(7669):582-587

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Christine Joseph
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