DURHAM, N.C. -- A newly identified gene may hold the promise of guiding future research into therapies for multiple sclerosis in what its discoverers say is the first major genetic advance in 30 years for understanding this nervous system disease.
While it has been known that there is a strong genetic underpinning for multiple sclerosis, only genes within a region of chromosome 6 have to date been implicated in the disease. The current finding, reported early online July 29 in the journal Nature Genetics, demonstrated that a functional gene variant on chromosome 5 was associated with an increased susceptibility to the disease. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health
Our finding is very important because the genetic factors that are already known to be associated with multiple sclerosis only explain less than half of the total genetic basis for the disease, said Simon Gregory, Ph.D., molecular geneticist at Dukes Center for Human Genetics and first author of the paper. We have identified a gene that increases an individuals risk of MS by 30 percent and that this variant has an effect on the function of the gene.
It is likely that variants of many genes are associated with the development of multiple sclerosis, so identifying a novel gene that is associated with MS will be very helpful in understanding this complex disease.
Joining Gregory and his colleagues at Duke were researchers from the University of California at San Francisco and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who spearheaded the collection of multiple sclerosis populations over many years, and the University of Miami and Vanderbilt University. The same team was also involved in another paper replicating similar findings from a whole genome analysis, which will appear on line in the New England Journal Medicine on July 29th.