New research, funded in part by the National MS Society and led by a former Society research fellow, found that being overweight and having low blood levels of vitamin D increase the risk for children to develop pediatric-onset MS. In this study, scientists from several institutions used “genetic risk scores” -- which are based on DNA information -- to confirm these links.
After accounting for other MS risk factors, the scientists found the effects of excess body weight and low vitamin D were more pronounced in children than in adults. In addition, while previous studies suggested that the increased risk of MS associated with excess weight is due to lower vitamin D levels commonly seen in obese individuals, the new findings suggest that both obesity and vitamin D deficiency independently contribute to MS risk.
While it’s not clear what sets off MS in children, researchers wonder if the same triggers that affect adult-onset MS play a similar role in kids. The results of this research add to the growing evidence for the role of genetic and environmental factors in susceptibility to childhood-onset MS. Knowing that both low vitamin D levels and obesity are risk factors has potential implications for preventing MS in children and adults.
The lead investigator on the study, Lisa F. Barcellos, PhD, MPH, is one of over 900 MS experts who received early career support through a Society postdoctoral fellowship. The findings of researchers like Barcellos and other former Society fellows have contributed to major MS research breakthroughs. In fact, the Society has provided early career support and funding to nearly every recognized MS expert. To sustain a pipeline of talented, passionate MS researchers who will fuel the next critical breakthroughs, the Society attracts and trains promising young investigators so they will establish life-long careers filled with scientific discoveries and MS progress.
Through your critical support of these fellowships and other research training opportunities together we will catapult the careers of young MS research talent and fuel the work of those investigators on the verge of MS research breakthroughs like this one.
With your critical support, the Society invests $8 million annually to help catapult the careers of young MS research talent and fuel the careers of those investigators on the verge of transformative breakthroughs.