Genetic Research of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Dr. Lynch:
- When we’re looking at research, we try to find out what’s the cause of MS. Hopefully, many people think that the way we will actually find the cure for MS is to figure out what the initial cause of the disease is. Unfortunately, we have not found the cause of multiple sclerosis, but we have a lot of interest in looking at it. And basically, there are two separate groups that tend to look at this and we really don’t intend to look at it as separate entities because there are probably combinations of factors that cause multiple sclerosis. Genetic research has shown that certainly MS does tend to run in some families. If you look at family members of patients with MS, in general, if a person has MS, about 20 percent of the time they will have another family member with MS. If you look at twin studies that if you have a pair of identical twins, the chances of both of them having MS if one has it is somewhere around 30 to 40 percent whereas if you have fraternal twins, it’s only about two to three percent, which generally suggests that there must be some sort of a genetic influence.
- Rick Turner:
- But not a complete influence.
- Dr. Lynch:
- Otherwise you would have 100 percent of twins; right?
- Dr. Lynch:
- That’s right. We know that while genetics may play a role, it is not the only thing. We have not been able to identify a specific gene that is really strongly correlated with that, although the DR-15 gene is possibly related. There is also some interesting research on the influence of genes on how severe someone’s MS might be. There was a study recently done in which they looked at a gene called apoE-4 in which they said that if a person carried that gene, they had no more likelihood of developing multiple sclerosis, but if they did have the gene, they were more likely to have a more severe case.
< “Genetic influence certainly plays a role, but it’s not the only thing; because it’s not the only thing, we’ve also looked at environmental influences.”
So, genetic influence certainly plays a role, but it’s not the only thing, and because it’s not the only thing, we’ve also looked at environmental influences. And a lot of people have become very focused on viruses and bacteria as the environmental influence. Nobody’s ever proven that, but there are a lot of people who really look at that carefully, and over the years that I’ve been involved in MS research and before that there have been so many viruses that have been associated with MS that I begin to think that we’re never going to find the right one. And that may be because perhaps there’s not a single virus but in fact it may be a number of viruses at different times in people’s lives.
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