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Genetic clues to MS

11th August 2011

A team of researchers led by UK scientists has identified almost 30 new genetic risk factors for developing multiple sclerosis.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, bring to more than 50 the total number of genetic clues to the disease.

The MS Society has said that the discovery could perhaps help lead to future treatments or even a cure.

The study, the largest so far into genes and MS, was carried out by a consortium of international researchers, led by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and looked at DNA from almost 10,000 MS patients, and more than 15,000 healthy controls.

The 23 known genetic variations that give an increase to the risk of getting MS were confirmed, along with 29 new ones being identified.

With a further five genetic variations suspected as being a factor, the total number of genetic variations associated with MS to 57.

Professor Alistair Compston of the University of Cambridge said: “This is suddenly a big new number of genes to try to understand.

“80% of the genes that are implicated by the 57 'hits' are immunological. This shouts out that this is an immunological disease at the beginning. This is a very important confirmation.”

MS Society chief executive Simon Gillespie said: “By identifying which genes may trigger the development of MS, we can identify potential 'risk factors' and look at new ways of treating, or even preventing, the condition in the future.”

Some 100,000 people have MS in the UK and about 2.5 million people worldwide.

 

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