Mutant flies confirm genetic link to restless legs syndrome

In a lab in Atlanta, a group of flies is sleeping fitfully. Their naps are fragmented, and their legs are twitching. Their behaviour is uncannily similar to people who have a condition called restless leg syndrome (RLS). When such people are awake, they experience uncomfortable sensations in their limbs that compel them to move to get some relief. Their sleep, which is fragmented and disturbed, is characterised by the same involuntary movements.

There’s a good reason for these similarities. Amanda Freeman from the Emory University School of Medicine has engineered the flies so that they have a faulty copy of BTBD9, a gene that has been linked to RLS in humans. The fact that they show the same constellation of

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