“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan Current Biology

12th June 2014

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Narcolepsy confirmed as autoimmune disease

As the H1N1 swine flu pandemic swept the world in 2009, China saw a  spike in cases of narcolepsy — a mysterious disorder that involves sudden, uncontrollable sleepiness. Meanwhile, in Europe, around 1 in 15,000 children who were given Pandemrix — a now-defunct flu vaccine that contained fragments of the pandemic virus — also developed narcolepsy, a chronic disease.
Immunologist Elizabeth Mellins and narcolepsy researcher Emmanuel Mignot at Stanford University School of Medicine in California and their collaborators have now partly solved the mystery behind these events, while also confirming a longstanding hypothesis that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks healthy cells.

Nerve cells (red) that act as receptors for hypocretins, hormones that regulate the sleep cycle, are attacked by the immune system in narcolepsy patients.  C.J.Guerin, MRC Toxicology Unit/ Science Photo Library

Narcolepsy confirmed as autoimmune disease

As the H1N1 swine flu pandemic swept the world in 2009, China saw a spike in cases of narcolepsy — a mysterious disorder that involves sudden, uncontrollable sleepiness. Meanwhile, in Europe, around 1 in 15,000 children who were given Pandemrix — a now-defunct flu vaccine that contained fragments of the pandemic virus — also developed narcolepsy, a chronic disease.

Immunologist Elizabeth Mellins and narcolepsy researcher Emmanuel Mignot at Stanford University School of Medicine in California and their collaborators have now partly solved the mystery behind these events, while also confirming a longstanding hypothesis that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks healthy cells.

Nerve cells (red) that act as receptors for hypocretins, hormones that regulate the sleep cycle, are attacked by the immune system in narcolepsy patients.  C.J.Guerin, MRC Toxicology Unit/ Science Photo Library

Tagged: narcolepsyautoimmunehypocretinneuronsbiologyscience

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