August 11, 2011 – 3:19AM
Scientists have taken a leap forward in their quest to find a cure for multiple sclerosis (MS) by identifying more than 50 genes linked to the disease.
A major international study has identified 57 genes with a certain pattern which highlights the immune system’s role in why some people develop MS, a common disease of the central nervous system.
Analysis of DNA samples provided by 9772 people with MS found the patients had subtle, inherited differences in their immune function compared to healthy individuals.
The finding sheds new light on the mystery about what causes MS and could play a vital role in finding a cure for the 2.5 million people worldwide with MS.
The study was one of the largest human genetic studies ever undertaken, involving more than 250 researchers from 15 countries, including Australia.
More than 1000 Australians with MS provided DNA samples, which were analysed by a consortium of Australian and New Zealand scientists involved in the study.
Scientists have thought for some time that a combination of genetic causes and environmental factors play a role in why some people develop MS.
But pinning down the exact causes has been difficult.
Until now, they were aware of only four genes linked to MS and have suggested that a lack of vitamin D could be one of the possible environmental factors.