Research ArticleDrug Discovery

Orexin Receptor Antagonists Differ from Standard Sleep Drugs by Promoting Sleep at Doses That Do Not Disrupt Cognition

Science Translational Medicine  03 Apr 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 179, pp. 179ra44
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005213

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Abstract

Current treatments for insomnia, such as zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta), are γ-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA)–positive allosteric modulators that carry a number of side effects including the potential to disrupt cognition. In an effort to develop better tolerated medicines, we have identified dual orexin 1 and 2 receptor antagonists (DORAs), which promote sleep in preclinical animal models and humans. We compare the effects of orally administered eszopiclone, zolpidem, and diazepam to the dual orexin receptor antagonist DORA-22 on sleep and the novel object recognition test in rat, and on sleep and two cognition tests (delayed match to sample and serial choice reaction time) in the rhesus monkey. Each compound’s minimal dose that promoted sleep versus the minimal dose that exerted deficits in these cognitive tests was determined, and a therapeutic margin was established. We found that DORA-22 has a wider therapeutic margin for sleep versus cognitive impairment in rat and rhesus monkey compared to the other compounds tested. These data were further supported with the demonstration of a wider therapeutic margin for DORA-22 compared to the other compounds on sleep versus the expression of hippocampal activity–regulated cytoskeletal-associated protein (Arc), an immediate-early gene product involved in synaptic plasticity. These findings suggest that DORAs might provide an effective treatment for insomnia with a greater therapeutic margin for sleep versus cognitive disturbances compared to the GABAA-positive allosteric modulators currently in use.

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