June 9, 1995 in Nation/World

Research Gives Nod To Substance That May Ease Insomnia


Scientists say they have found nature’s own sleeping potion in a compound isolated from sleep-deprived cats.

Tested in both cats and rats, the substance induces sleep - not the unnatural sleep of sedatives, but real sleep, which is a complex alternation of at least five different stages.

The finding, published today in the journal Science, could lead to better drugs for the 40 million Americans who suffer from insomnia.

The researchers said the sleep chemical also is found in human spinal fluid.

The researchers isolated the substance from the spinal fluid of the cats and tested its effectiveness by injecting it into cats and rats that had just had a good sleep. The substance didn’t knock the animals out suddenly, says team leader Richard Lerner, a chemist from Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

“Back in 1909, people proposed that there was a sleep fluid,” he says. There were experiments on dogs and rabbits that led to a number of different chemicals apparently linked to sleep - but none that produced complete sleep.

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