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Researchers confirm link between MS and a gene linked to vitamin D

December 9, 2011

Investigators in the United Kingdom and Canada report an association between a rare variation of a gene that controls vitamin D levels and the development of MS in rare families with multiple members who have the disease. This gene variation causes dysfunction that leads to vitamin D deficiency, and the same variant was previously reported in two Norwegian families. Drs. George Ebers, Sreeram Ramagopalan (University of Oxford) and colleagues report their findings in the Annals of Neurology, Accepted manuscript online, November 25). Read a summary of the study on the web site of the MS Society of the United Kingdom, which funded the study along with the Wellcome Trust.

This gene was previously suspected to play a role in MS susceptibility based on a large-scale Australian genome study, along with many other gene variations that contribute to MS susceptibility. (Read about the largest genome-wide study yet, reported earlier this year.) Research is increasingly pointing to reduced levels of vitamin D in the blood as one factor that can increase the risk of developing MS. The National MS Society (USA) is funding several projects in this area, including a new clinical trial getting underway to test whether vitamin D can reduce disease activity in people who have MS. Read more about what we know about causes of MS.

Next week, the Society is convening an international summit in Chicago discussing whether it is possible to prevent MS using vitamin D. Register for a webcast to be held December 13, 2011 in conjunction with this meeting, featuring internationally prominent MS investigators discussing key MS research to follow in 2012.

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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