Two studies published in the October issue of Nature Genetics map genetic regions associated with susceptibility to multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a prevalent autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system that leads to inflammation and nerve damage and can result in progressive loss of motor function. The disorder is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
While no individual genes have been identified that lead to increased risk, a large genetic region involved in immune recognition and response has previously been associated with MS susceptibility. George Ebers and colleagues now present a high-resolution map of this genetic region in Canadian and Finnish individuals affected with MS. The authors refined the boundaries for the genetic association and found that the primary risk is associated with a class of genes involved in mediating immune reaction to foreign proteins that cells take up from their environment.
In an accompanying study, David Reich and colleagues find evidence for a new genetic influence on MS, using a computational strategy designed to find risk variants that differ strikingly in frequency across human populations. The study compared genetic regions in African American individuals with MS versus healthy controls. The new computational approach used showed greater power to detect weak factors contributing to disease risk than traditional methods, and could be useful for identifying risk factors for other common diseases such as lupus, end-stage renal disease and type 2 diabetes.
George C Ebers (University of Oxford, UK)
David Reich (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
Abstracts available online at the following links: Study 1, and Study 2.
(C) Nature Genetics press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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