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After a decades-long search, scientists identify new genetic risk factors for multiple sclerosis

nother and with environmental factors to create a large risk, he said.

The researchers who conducted the candidate gene search also think they know how variation in the IL7R-alpha gene affects the IL7R-alpha protein. They found evidence that the MS-associated variant causes a reduction in the amount of the IL7R-alpha protein at the T cell surface. Less is known about how variation in IL2R-alpha might contribute to MS, but that protein is already being viewed as useful therapeutic target. In a 2004 study by NINDS scientists, 10 MS patients who were unresponsive to currently approved therapies showed improvement when treated with an antibody that blocks IL2R-alpha, developed to prevent rejection of organ transplants.

Finally, the genome-wide scan identified nearly a dozen other genes that could represent risk factors for MS. Some of the associations were relatively weak and some of the genes' functions are unclear.

"A major effort to understand the full complement of genes involved in MS will be necessary to completely understand the disease," said Dr. Hafler, adding that all of the data from the genome scan will be made publicly available for future investigations.


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Contact: Daniel Stimson
stimsond@ninds.nih.gov
301-496-5751
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
29-Jul-2007


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