The SCN lab is characterized by a sophisticated in vivo rodent sleep/circadian physiology recording system. We focus on the pharmacological and physiological and pathophysiological aspects of sleep/wake regulation and sleep disorders using various animal models.
- Pathophysiology of sleep problems in neurological (narcolepsy), neuromuscular (myotonic dystrophy), and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies). We are using animal models to seek and evaluate future treatment options for these problems. Hypersomnia, sleep disruption, and/or REM sleep dysregulation are frequently observed and are tremendous issues in these patients.
- Plasma amino acid profile of clinical and large-scale cohort samples We are evaluating plasma amino acid profiles of clinical and large-scale cohort samples to understand interactions between nutrients and sleep homeostasis/disorders. In rodents, we have demonstrated that exogenous glycine acts on the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the center of control for circadian body temperature rhythm, and promotes sleep via peripheral vasodilation. From clinical samples, we reported altered amino acid metabolisms in severe sleep disorders breathing (SDB) patients.
- Involvement of cranial mast cells in sleep/wake regulation using mast cell specific deletion mice. Mast cells contain various chemical mediators such as histamine and cytokines. Interestingly, half of the amount of histamine in the brain is derived from mast cells. Although sleep-wake regulation by histaminergic neurons has been extensively studied, the role of cranial mast cells on behavior largely remains unknown.
- Beneficial and adverse effects of active ingredients in herbal medicine and naturally occurring stimulants such as coffee on natural sleep need more research, and we have been evaluating this in rodents. Caffeine-containing products improve memory, concentration, and physical performance, but cause anxiety, agitation, and insomnia. Ginkgo biloba extract has been widely used for memory loss, vascular diseases, insomnia, and it’s active ingredients are Ginkgolides and Bilobalide. We evaluated the effects of these active ingredients among others on sleep.
- Evaluating effects of sleep environment (mattress toppers) on sleep and sleep-related symptoms. Recent studies with a small number of subjects found that young and old healthy males using mattress toppers with different characteristics had differential heat loss profile (i.e. core body temperature decline following sleep onset) and deep sleep quantity during the initial phase of nocturnal sleep, and we are currently running a larger scale study.
Preclinical drug evaluations
At Stanford University, we have established a team of research scientists and technical specialists who are dedicated to fostering joint academic-industrial research ventures in pharmaceutical research and development.
Examples of our projects focuses:
- Basic sleep physiology of wake-promoting systems and their implication in sleep disorders
- Evaluations and establishment of animals models of sleep and circadian rhythm disorders
- Hypocretin-deficient narcolepsy and stimulant abuse
- Narcolepsy and energy homeostasis
- Narcolepsy and PLMS
- Stress-induced sleep disturbances and those in PTSD