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Genetic link to sleepwalking: A dream or reality?

14 February 2011

By Owen Clark

Appeared in BioNews 595

A new study has demonstrated a genetic link to sleepwalking, a condition that affects up to ten percent of children and 1 in 50 adults.

The research team, based at Washington University School of Medicine, examined the DNA of 22 members of a family spanning four generations that contained nine sleepwalkers.

They found that a variant region of DNA on chromosome 20 was present in all of the nine sleepwalkers. This region is known to contain 28 genes, of which at least one is involved in slow-wave sleep, the stage of sleep in which sleepwalking occurs.

The report, published in the Journal of Neurology, is the first to demonstrate a link between a 'genetic locus' - a specific region of DNA - and sleepwalking, and has bolstered evidence that the condition has some degree of heritability.

Dr Caroline Gurnett, one of the lead authors, told the BBC: 'We do not know yet which of the genes in this linkage region of chromosome 20 will be responsible. Until we find the gene we won't know whether this accounts for several families or a large number of families who have sleepwalking'.

The researchers concluded that sleepwalking can be inherited in an 'autosomal with reduced penetrance' pattern - meaning that it is carried on the non-sex chromosomes and does not always manifest itself as a physical condition - which suggests that environmental factors and interaction with other genes may also be involved.

Neurology | 04 January 2011
BBC News | 08 February 2011
NHS Choices | 08 February 2011
Daily Telegraph | 08 February 2011
Daily Telegraph | 08 February 2011


04 March 2013 - by Dr Shanya Sivakumaran 
Inadequate sleep alters the activity of over 700 genes, scientists report. In the research, sleeping less than six hours per night for just one week impacted genes related to metabolism, inflammation and immunity...

24 August 2009 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
US scientists have discovered a gene involved in regulating how much sleep is required by a person, providing the first genetic insight into unravelling the regulatory mechanisms of sleep....
06 October 2008 - by Stuart Scott 
A genome-wide screen performed by Japanese scientists has uncovered a genetic variant linked to an increased risk for narcolepsy - a sleeping disorder marked by excessive daytime sleepiness, loss of muscle function and hallucinations. Researchers at the University of Tokyo compared the genome of 222 narcoleptic Japanese and...
13 October 2005 - by BioNews 
Variations in a gene that affects levels of a key brain chemical could influence how soundly people sleep, Swiss researchers say. The scientists, based at the University of Zurich, found that people with a particular version of the adenosine deaminase gene sleep more deeply. The team, who published their findings...
04 April 2005 - by BioNews 
US researchers have identified an altered gene that causes people to go to bed early and wake up before dawn. People with the condition, called familial advanced sleep phase syndrome (FASPS), do not usually sleep any more or less than others - just at different times. The new study, published in...
18 June 2001 - by BioNews 
A gene variation that is known to be linked to Alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular problems has also now been linked to sleep apnoea, a condition in which sufferers snore and have lapses in breathing while they sleep. Breathing lapses can occur when the muscles in the mouth and throat relax...

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