Researchers have published their discovery linking two genes with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disorder in which the immune cells infiltrate the brain and spinal cord.
Surrounding and protecting some brain and spinal cord cells is a fatty layer known as the myelin sheath. Myelin sheath is important for conducting electrical impulses along the nerves and maintaining the health of the nerves.
In multiple sclerosis, inflammation causes the myelin to degenerate and eventually disappear, causing the impulses that travel along the nerves to decelerate.
The researchers conducted a study using DNA technology that enabled them to screen the genetic blueprint of close to 3,000 people, 931 of whom had the disease.
The data revealed 174 nucleotide differences called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that may be associated with the risk of multiple sclerosis. They then analyzed 110 out of the 174 SNPs in a second set of subjects which number close to 5,000 people. In their final combined analysis, the scientists cited several genes that showed significant association with the risk of multiple sclerosis, two of which are implicated in the regulation of the immune response–interleukin-2 receptor alpha gene (IL2RA) and interleukin-7 receptor alpha gene (IL7R).
Other associated genes include KIAA0350, RPL5, DBC1, CD58, ALK, FAM69A, ANKRD15, EVI5, KLRB1, CBLB and PDE4B.
The research was published in the August 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.