Researchers have identified 13 new genetic variants that increased the risk of developing restless legs syndrome, a finding which may help inform potential new treatment options for the chronic condition.
People suffering from restless legs syndrome feel an overwhelming urge to move, often in conjunction with unpleasant sensations, usually in the legs.
Such people also have substantially impaired sleep, reduced overall quality of life, and increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders, hypertension, and, possibly, cardiovascular disease.
Several of the genetic variants have previously been linked to the growth and development of nerve cells -- a process known as neurogenesis -- and to changes in the formation of neuronal circuits.
These findings, published in the journal Lancet Neurology, strengthen the case for restless legs syndrome being a neurodevelopmental disorder whose origins may go back to development in the womb as well as impaired nerve cell growth in later life, the researchers noted.
"The genetic risk variants that we've discovered add more weight to the idea that this condition is related to the development of our nervous system," said Emanuele Di Angelantonio from the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen in Germany.
"It also gives us some clues to how we may treat patients affected by the condition," Angelantonio added.
"We are convinced that the newly discovered risk loci will contribute substantially to our understanding of the causal biology of the disease," said Barbara Schormair from the varsity.
Previous studies showed a strong genetic component to the disorder and led to the discovery of six genetic variants that increased the risk of developing the condition.
For the new study, the team compared the genetic data from over 15,000 patients with more than 95,000 controls, and identified a further 13 genetic risk variants.
The new genetic findings are an important step towards developing new and improved treatment options for the patients, the researchers noted.
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