Gene differences may alter susceptibility to multiple sclerosis

Columbus, Ohio A tiny difference in a gene may signal that a person is twice as susceptible to multiple sclerosis (MS) as normal. It could also foretell of a more rapidly progressing form of the disease, according to new research at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health.

The study focused on a gene known as CD24, which directs the making of a protein found on immune cells and that plays an important role in immune responses.

Specifically, the study looked at two different versions of the CD24 gene. The two versions differ because of a minute difference known as a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP (pronounced 'snip'). A SNP is a difference of one so-called base, or nucleotide, in the gene's DNA compared to the same gene in another person. SNPs are common and occur naturally. They may help give a unique pattern to each person's DNA.

The study is published in the Dec. 9 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our findings provide the first evidence that CD24 gene is important in the development of MS," says Yang Liu, professor of pathology. "They also suggest that the protein encoded by this gene may provide a valuable target for new drugs to treat the disease." If the findings are verified, the genetic difference also might one day help identify patients who may require a different form of treatment. MS is a chronic, progressive neurological disease that involves the loss of myelin from nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin forms an insulating layer around nerve fibers, and its loss results in the inability of nerves to transmit impulses. MS symptoms include episodes of numbness, weakness of a hand or leg, transient blindness. The disease can progress to paralysis and blindness, though symptoms and rate of progression varies.

An estimated 400,000 Americans have MS. It occurs more often in Caucasians than other groups, and it is more common in women than men. T

Contact: Darrell E. Ward
Ohio State University

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