Research suggests that MS occurs in individuals and in families whose genes make them susceptible to developing the disease, and that many genes contribute to MS susceptibility. In addition, individuals who are genetically at risk must encounter some other triggering factor in the environment to actually develop MS. Pinpointing the exact location of these “MS genes” could help determine who is at risk for developing the disease, and may provide clues to its cause, prevention and better treatment.
Genetics is an important research issue in MS because
- it will provide key information regarding the cause of the disease and therefore how to prevent it
- genes that are associated with MS may be targets for the development of new therapies
- if we could identify those people who have a strong genetic predisposition to the disease, we might be able to intervene at its earliest stages or before it appears.
A crucial aspect of this research is collaboration. With funding from a National MS Society Collaborative MS Research Center Award, MS geneticists from around the world have joined to create the International MS Genetics Consortium, whose work has already sped the search for MS genes exponentially. The IMSGC completed the identified variations in two genes that help regulate the immune system as clearly increasing genetic susceptibility to MS, as well as several other genes of newly suspected importance in MS, some of which have, as yet, no known function. These have now become targets of intense research interest by MS investigators.
This group recently reported the largest MS genetics study ever undertaken, a identifying 29 new genetic variants associated with MS, and confirming 23 others previously associated with the disease, verifying a major role for the immune system in the development of MS. The study involved nearly 10,000 people with MS and more than 17,000 controls without MS, and was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the National Institutes of Health, the National MS Society and many other organizations. Read more here.
Read about other studies funded by the National MS Society:
- Studying human cells isolated in the laboratory, researchers reveal a novel interaction between two genes that influence susceptibility to developing MS, certain environmental factors, and a chemical process (called N-glycosylation) that modifies the structure of molecules, which together may contribute to our understanding of how complex interactions lead to the development of MS. Read more here.
- Fast Forward, LLC, a nonprofit subsidiary of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Lineagen, Inc., an innovative molecular diagnostics company focused on complex, genetically linked disorders, today announced an alliance to fund the clinical development and validation of a blood-based assay for MS. Read more here.
- Researchers used novel methods to compare genetic material in three pairs of identical twins, where one twin had multiple sclerosis and the other did not. Read about the results here.