Researchers Find MS-linked Genes
Swedish and American researchers are claiming a major breakthrough in understanding the causes of the debilitating disease of the central nervous system, Multiple Sclerosis.
In separate studies, they each say they have linked a single gene to the presence of MS, that could lead to better treatment for those with the condition, and similar diseases.
The research has been published simultaneously in the journals “Nature Genetics” and the “New England Journal of Medicine”. After studying some 40,000 people in Europe and the US, researchers say they have identified two genes that can be linked to the risk of contracting MS.
The condition is widely believed to be a result of the body’s own immune system attacking the central nervous system. Some of the common symptoms include failing sensory perception, loss of balance, depression, physical weakness and chronic fatigue.
According to the Swedish Association of Persons with Neurological Disabilities there are currently some 12,000 people diagnosed with MS in Sweden.
Frida Lundmark, one of those involved in the Swedish study, tells Swedish Radio News that the group has discovered a gene that is ”extremely important”, to the body’s immune system. Lundmark says the gene has a key role in the production of white blood cells and cells that control the immune system.
Researchers looked at the medical records and DNA of more than 20,000 MS sufferers, and 20,000 healthy subjects across the US and Europe over a 20 year period. They say the geographical spread and time frame of the studies, make the findings especially important.
The scientists say the breakthrough could also lead to a better understanding of other conditions where the body’s own immune system attacks the body, such as Type-1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
In the longer term, researchers hope their findings can lead to a better understanding of what actually happens to MS patients as they become ill, and consequently result in improved care for those who contract the condition.