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Genetic breakthrough for MS

30th July 2007

Two genes that increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) have been discovered by scientists, it is reported today.

A pair of studies scanned DNA samples from more than 20,000 MS patients and unaffected people in the US and Europe for genetic variations known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

The researchers found a link between MS and SNPs in two genes that encode interleukin receptors – proteins on the surface of immune cells.

“These are the first non-HLA [human leukocyte antigens] genes to be unequivocally associated with MS,” said Dr Maraget Pericak-Vance, director of the Miami Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami.

“They give us a new way of looking at the biology of the disease, and could be targets for therapeutic development.”

Dr Lee Dunster, head of research and information at the MS Society, added: “One of the great unknowns about MS is what causes it and this looks like a welcome breakthrough in getting to grips with the genetics behind the disease.”

“These latest findings will be of great interest to researchers trying to develop future treatments.”

All of the data from the studies is to be made publicly available for future investigations.

Reports on the findings are published in the journal Nature Genetics and the New England Journal of Medicine.

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