The report from collaborators in Minnesota, Northern Ireland, Belgium and Italy appears in the Jan. 27 online publication of the journal Genes & Immunity (http://www.nature.com/gene/).
Significance of the Finding
"In practical terms, this is what our findings suggest: How much of the protein known as 'interferon gamma' you produce appears to be a new key variable in understanding who gets MS and who doesn't, and especially why women develop MS more often than men," explains the study's lead author, Mayo Clinic neurologist Brian Weinshenker, M.D. "If you have a gene that produces high levels of interferon gamma, it may predispose you to developing MS. Under this scenario, men get MS less often because they have a lower frequency of a gene variant that is related to higher secretion of interferon gamma."
To researchers looking for a cure for MS -- where currently there is none -- the finding is helpful for three main reasons: 1) it provides a target at which to direct future investigations into ways to stop MS, 2) it provides leads on ways to improve treatments that can minimize the tissue and nerve damage the disease causes, and 3) it may advance the search for new treatments for other diseases. Notes Dr. Weinshenker, "Our finding isn't the whole genetic cause, but it's a helpful step that could lead us to a more complete understanding of MS -- and ultimately, effective treatment. It's also a very promising lead about gender differences that may pertain to susceptibility of other diseases, too, such as rheumatoid arthritis."