Taking medicine after hopping off a plane to cure jet lag may become a reality in the not-so-distant future. A report in The Lancet shows promising results from clinical trials of a novel circadian regulator from Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Rockville, Md. The experimental compound tasimelteon (VEC-162) demonstrated sleep-promoting effects by resetting the body clock by acting on melatonin receptors in the brain.
“Our studies show that tasimelteon is able to effectively shift the rhythm of melatonin levels in the body, which are a well-established marker of the human biological clock,” says lead researcher Shantha Rajaratnam, MD, of Monash University’s School of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Psychological Medicine. “Tasimelteon improved a patient’s ability to fall asleep and then stay asleep when bedtime was shifted earlier by 5 hours.”
According to an article in the Washington Post, the researchers say that the development of melatonin analogues, which specifically target melatonin receptors, will also help in understanding more about the role of the hormone melatonin in the regulation of sleep.
The drug also has the potential to improve the quality and quantity of sleep for shift workers and patients who suffer from circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
The results appear in The Lancet with an editorial titled “Let there be sleep—on time.” The editorial discusses the implications of the circadian regulatory and sleep-promoting effects of tasimelteon.