Scientists have identified the first gene that is linked to Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), which is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide.
RLS is characterised by powerful, most often overpowering need to move the legs and is also a major cause of insomnia and sleep disturbance.
"We now have concrete evidence that RLS is an authentic disorder with recognizable features and underlying biological basis," New England Medical Journal quoted David Rye, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, director of the Emory Healthcare Program in Sleep, and one of the study's lead authors, as saying.
"This is the most definitive link between genetics and RLS that has been reported to date. We have known for quite some time that the majority of RLS patients have a close family member with the disorder, and now we have found a gene which is clearly linked to RLS," said Dr. Rye.
The gene variant is common as at least 65 pct of the population carry at least one copy of it, and having two copies of the variant increases one's risk of experiencing RLS.
According to Dr. Rye, carrying two copies does not guarantee that one will develop RLS symptoms.
"There remain yet-to-be-identified medical, environmental or genetic factors that appear necessary to translate genetic susceptibility into RLS symptoms," he said.
Dr. Rye also said that there isn't much information available on the gene variant.
"Additional work will be required to translate this knowledge into a plausible mechanism and, in turn, more rational and better treatments. "Future advances will depend upon additional monies which to this point have come solely from private foundations and industry," notes Dr. Rye.
The study is published in the in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine and will appear in an upcoming printed edition of the journal.