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Newly-discovered inherited MS gene may lead to breakthrough treatments

02/06/2016

Newly-discovered inherited MS gene may lead to breakthrough treatmentsScientists in Canada have apparently discovered a gene that causes a rare, but inherited form of multiple sclerosis.

The researchers say that the inherited gene affects around one in every thousand MS patients, and is proof that the disease is passed down generations.

It's been long suspected by scientists that MS had a genetic element, but it was always assumed that lots of difference genes were involved, as well as other environmental factors.

For the research, scientists at the University of British Columbia studied the DNA of hundreds of families affected by MS in the hope that they would discover a culprit gene.

Such a gene was found in two sets of families, both of which contained several members with a rapidly progressive form of MS.

The researchers found that in these families, 70% of the individuals with the mutation developed the disease.

It should be noted that there are still a multitude of other factors that may be necessary to trigger the disease process. Nevertheless, the discovery of the gene as a substantial causative risk factor is still a big breakthrough.

When a person is suffering with MS, their body's immune system mistakenly attacks the protective layer of myelin which surrounds nerve fibres in the spinal cord and brain. This leads to muscle weakness, as well as other symptoms.

The gene that was found to contain the mutation is called NH1H3, and the scientists believe that by targeting its pathway they can prevent or delay the onset of MS.

Researcher Dr Carles Vilarino-Guell said: "These are still early days and there is a lot to test, but if we are able to repurpose some of these experimental drugs, it could shorten the time it takes to develop targeted MS treatments."

More information can be found on the Neuron website.
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