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Future Directions in RLS Research

Biological and Pathological Basis for RLS

Conditions in our environment can irreversibly change our genetic makeup – a process known as epigenetic change – and these changes often increase the risk for disease. The genes, explained above, sometimes interact with certain environmental conditions to further increase the likelihood of RLS. 

We have identified iron deficiency as a probable environmental factor leading to the development of RLS.  Whether this deficiency develops during childhood, pregnancy, or throughout the lifetime of an individual, its effect of triggering RLS, may, unfortunately, be irreversible. Our tests show that even when iron is restored to a healthy level, the biologic alterations that have occurred, potentially leading someone to develop RLS, appear to be permanent.

The system that is upset when impacted by epigenetic factors is, fortunately, highly testable.  Various approaches can be used to test these systems, so further opportunities to examine genetic and biological interactions in tissue with identifiable RLS risk variant genes abound.

Genetics             Model Development

To learn more about how you can make a difference in advancing RLS research, contact Katie Norton with the Johns Hopkins Development Program at 410-516-4952 or

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