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Sleep Genes Linked to Risk of MS and MS-like Damage: Find Tips for Improving Sleep

September 27, 2023

Researchers funded by the National MS Society found links between sleep-related genes and the risk of developing MS, as well as MS-like damage in mouse models. This research may yield insight into why so many people with MS experience sleep problems.

Background: Sleep problems are common in people with MS. Researchers led by Dr. Erin Gibson at Stanford University School of Medicine are investigating what may underlie sleep problems in MS. Specifically, this team looked at circadian rhythms, which are approximate 24-hour cycles generated at the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels, including sleep and wakefulness. The team looked at how circadian rhythms may affect the formation and repair of myelin, the substance that insulates nerve fibers and is damaged in MS.

The Study: The team engineered mouse models in which the genes instructing circadian rhythms were intact or inactive specifically in myelin-forming cells.
  • In those with inactive genes, myelin-making cells did not develop properly, and myelin was thinner. Cognitive and motor function was affected, and sleep was interrupted.
  • They followed up by studying genes associated with sleep problems in 47,429 people with MS from the landmark genome-wide study conducted by the International MS Genetics Consortium and 68,734 controls without MS. Genes for interrupted sleep were associated with an increased risk of MS.
Why does this matter? This study provides intriguing suggestions for why so many people with MS experience sleep problems. The links between MS and sleep may run deep, to underlying biologic and genetic mechanisms. While these efforts continue, it’s important to remember that sleep problems are treatable. Please read on for tips and strategies.
Learn more… BMAL1 loss in oligodendroglia contributes to abnormal myelination and sleep” by Daniela Rojo, Louisa Dal Cengio, Anna Badner, Samuel Kim, Noriaki Sakai, Jacob Greene, Tess Dierckx, Lindsey C. Mehl, Ella Eisinger, Julia Ransom, Caroline Arellano-Garcia, Mohammad E. Gumma, Rebecca L. Soyk, Cheyanne M. Lewis, Mable Lam, Maya K. Weigel, Valentina Martinez Damonte, Belgin Yalçın, Samuel E. Jones, Hanna M. Ollila, Seiji Nishino, and Erin M. Gibson, is published in Neuron (Published: August 31, 2023)

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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