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Novel Twins Study Pinpoints Immune System Activity Early in MS Not Accounted for by Genes

February 23, 2022

A new study from the University of Zurich identified immune system patterns in people with MS that may be clues to how MS is triggered. The MS Twin Study – 61 sets of identical twins in which only one twin had MS – is a unique opportunity to study early biological events in MS. Twins have identical genes, so this allows researchers to distinguish other non-genetic differences that may underlie MS.

In this study, researchers used state-of-the-art technologies such as mass cytometry (exploring millions of cells) and machine learning (an automated type of data analysis) to look at the immune profiles of these sets of twins. The results showed key differences in docking sites on immune messenger proteins (cytokines), that affect how immune cells communicate with each other. These differences left people with MS susceptible to greater activation of the cells that drive immune attacks in MS.

Although twins do share early environmental experiences (such as  prenatal influences), these results suggest that a later environmental factor or factors might be at play. Ongoing research by scientists around the world are working on identifying those factors and how they launch the disease.

Read more from the University of Zurich

Read the paper, available from Nature via Open Access

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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