R&D News: New genetic variants linked to MS identified
MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
The move will provide key insights into the biology of an important and very debilitating neurological disease.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Center for Human Genetics Research (CHGR) played an important role in the research, which effectively doubles the number of genes known to be associated with the disease.
Jonathan Haines, director of the CHGR and one of the principal researchers in this effort, said: â€œWe now know just how complex multiple sclerosis is. These new genes give us many new clues as to what is happening in MS and will guide our research efforts for years to come.â€
Researchers studied the DNA from 9,772 individuals with multiple sclerosis and 17,376 unrelated healthy controls. They were able to confirm 23 previously known genetic associations and identified a further 29 new genetic variants (and an additional five that are strongly suspected) conferring susceptibility to the disease.
Many genes implicated in the study are relevant to the immune system, shedding light onto the immunological pathways that underlie the development of MS.
One-third of the genes identified in the study have previously been implicated in playing a role in other autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's Disease and Type 1 diabetes, Haines said.
Previous studies have also suggested a link between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of multiple sclerosis; researchers in this study identified two genes involved in the metabolism of vitamin D, providing additional insight into a possible link between genetic and environmental risk factors.
The international team was funded by the Wellcome Trust that includes contributions from nearly 250 researchers as members of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium and the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium.
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