Progress in explaining multiple sclerosis
New genetic risk factors for multiple sclerosis (MS) discovered. As part of a comprehensive international study, scientists were able to demonstrate several genetic variations that favor the occurrence of the nerve disease. According to the researchers, the study results published in the current issue of the journal "Nature" confirm the classification of MS as an autoimmune reaction.
In a large-scale study, an international team of researchers led by the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford compared the genetic makeup of around 9,700 MS patients with that of 17,400 healthy subjects in the control group and discovered 29 new genetic risk factors for multiple sclerosis. Much of the identified genes are related to immunity, which leads researchers to believe that MS is caused by an autoimmune response in which the immune system is directed against itself.
29 new genetic MS risk factors discovered As part of the current study, the researchers evaluated the data from over 27,000 test subjects from 15 countries and closely examined their genetic makeup. The scientists were able to identify 29 new gene variations that play an important role in the development of MS. Alistair Compston from the University of Cambridge and colleagues report that a total of more than 50 genetic risk factors for MS are now known. According to the expert, 80 percent of the genes that play a role in MS have an immunological background, which suggests that "it is an immune disorder". According to Alistair Compston, "this confirmation is of great importance". Professor Bernhard Hemmer from the Multiple Sclerosis Competence Network also stated that the study supports the thesis that "multiple sclerosis is based on an autoimmune reaction".
Multiple sclerosis as an autoimmune reaction of the organism According to the scientists, the chronic inflammatory multiple sclerosis inflammatory disease that is caused by relapses is triggered by the body's own defense cells, which damage the protective myelin sheaths around the nerves in the spinal cord and brain. The current study results have confirmed this viewpoint, since a large part of the newly discovered genetic risk factors are related to the immune system, Compston and colleagues write. It has long been known that hereditary predisposition plays an important role in MS. However, it has so far remained unclear what effect relationships there are between the genetic risk factors and the MS symptoms such as symptoms of paralysis, numbness, dizziness or visual disturbances. However, the suspicion of an autoimmune reaction was the reason for the increased use of therapeutic measures to influence the immune system. Professor Hemmer believes that the classification of MS as an immune disease, now confirmed by the newly discovered risk genes, suggests that these "therapeutic approaches must be strengthened" in order to get the autoimmune reaction under control.
Tracking down the causes of MS In addition to the genetic risk factors, experts say that infections such as human herpes viruses or bacterial pathogens can also cause multiple sclerosis to occur. Overall, according to the health authorities, MS is one of the most common chronic inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system in Europe, with men being affected much less frequently than women. Experts estimate that up to 138,000 MS patients currently live in Germany, and around two and a half million people worldwide are affected. Since the causes of the disease have not yet been conclusively clarified, numerous initiatives worldwide are intensively devoted to MS research. For example, the current study was initiated by the "International Multiple Sclerose Genetics Consortium" and the "Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium". (fp)
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