News & AnalysisImmunology

Swine Flu Connection Provides Clues About Narcolepsy

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Science  20 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6165, pp. 1430
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6165.1430

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The swine flu pandemic of late 2009 had a peculiar aftereffect in parts of Europe: a spike in children being diagnosed with narcolepsy, an incurable sleep disorder. Now, scientists have a clue to why—one that points to a new understanding of narcolepsy itself. Patients with the disease have immune cells that are spurred to attack by hypocretin, a hormone that regulates wakefulness. The find is the strongest evidence yet that narcolepsy is caused by an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system goes awry and attacks the body's own cells.