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Narcolepsy linked to immune system

Genetic tie may be second link between the two

12:48pm, May 5, 2009

Scientists have identified a second genetic tie that cements a connection between a disabling sleep disorder and the immune system.

Emmanuel Mignot, a sleep researcher and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Stanford University, led an international team searching for the genetic causes of narcolepsy. The team reports online May 3 in Nature Genetics that several genetic markers associated with narcolepsy map to a gene important for turning immature immune T cells into microbe killers.

For decades scientists have known that people with narcolepsy are more likely to have a particular version of an immune gene called HLA-DQB1*0602. The gene belongs to a class of genes called HLA, for human leukocyte antigens, that makes key immune proteins. These proteins present small bits of invading microbes to T cells, much like a handler waves a sweat-laden sock in front of a bloodhound. The proteins thus help T cells identify, track down and kill the

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