Thomas Scammell

Narcolepsy: From basic sciences to therapeutic approaches

Thomas Scammell, MD (United States)
Professor of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School, United States

Keynote Summary: Narcolepsy is one of the more common causes of chronic sleepiness, yet until about 20 years ago, the cause of narcolepsy was essentially unknown. The discovery that narcolepsy is caused by a selective and severe loss of the orexin/hypocretin neurons has transformed our understanding of this disorder and is now leading to more effective therapies. Dr. Scammell will provide an overview of the neurobiology of narcolepsy; how loss of orexin signaling causes chronic sleepiness and cataplexy; and how this improved understanding is helping drive the development of novel therapies that target this fundamental orexin deficiency.

Biosketch: Thomas Scammell, MD is a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Scammell received his medical degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and then completed a residency in Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.

For the last 25 years, Dr. Scammell has run a research lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center focused on identifying the neural mechanisms that control sleep and wakefulness. He has received several NIH grants to study the control of sleep and wakefulness by the hypothalamus and brainstem, and much of his lab’s work now focuses on narcolepsy and identifying the pathways through which the orexin neuropeptides stabilize wakefulness and suppress cataplexy. Additional projects examine the interactions of sleep and pain, and the functions of arousal-promoting brainstem pathways. Dr. Scammell also treats patients with narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. He is a Section Editor for UpToDate and Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine and was a Deputy Editor of Sleep. He has published over 150 research articles, reviews, and chapters.