29 New Genetic Variants Linked to MS: Breaking News

  • As temperatures have dropped in the Nation’s Capitol, I think about areas in the country where temps in excess of 100 degrees continue to persist.  I am thankful to not be facing that today as it's a beautiful 84 degree Fahrenheit.

    “Hot Hot Hot”

    Do you remember this party song from Buster Poindexter of the New York Dolls?  It was on the 1987 album titled simply Buster Poindexter.  Such a catchy tune which tends to rattle around in your brain which it sneaks in.

    “Me mind on fire -- Me soul on fire -- Feeling hot hot hot”

    This morning my mind is certainly on fire, but it has nothing to do with the heat.  I was reading about the identification of an additional 29 genetic variants which are connected to multiple sclerosis.  The paper published in the journal Nature, Genetic Risk and a Primary Role for Cell-mediated Immune Mechanisms in Multiple Sclerosis, has received a great deal media coverage with the same details repeated over and over again (enough to make your head spin).

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    Here are the facts:

    • As the largest MS genetics study ever undertaken, contributions came from almost 250 researchers who are members of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium and the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium.
    • Researchers studied the DNA from 9,772 individuals with multiple sclerosis and 17,376 unrelated healthy controls.  
    • Researchers confirmed 23 previously known genetic associations and identified 29 new genetic variants (and an additional five that are strongly suspected) which are linked to multiple sclerosis.
    • One third of the genes identified in this research have previously been implicated in playing a role in other autoimmune diseases.  (This interests me as a person living with more than one autoimmune disease.)
    • Many of the genes involve T-cell activation and differentiation, as well as interleukins.

    As reported in Medical News Today, Alastair Compston who led the study with Peter Donnelly said that in 1970 scientists had identified one gene linked to MS, in 2007 the number rose to three, and during the last three to four years they rose to 20, then 29 and now 57.  That’s an impressive progress towards trying to understand the genetics of this disease.

    “See people rocking -- Hear people chanting -- Feeling hot hot hot”

    All of the repetitive news coverage resembles a sacred chant.  Here is a sampling:

    I thought that the last two articles put an interesting twist on the news.  I would not have made that particular juxtaposition.


  • “It's in the air - Celebration time”

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    A quote from author Alastair Compston does sound a little bit like a celebration declaration.  Compston said: “Identifying the basis for genetic susceptibility to any medical condition provides reliable insights into the disease mechanisms. Our research settles a longstanding debate on what happens first in the complex sequence of events that leads to disability in multiple sclerosis. It is now clear that multiple sclerosis is primarily an immunological disease. This has important implications for future treatment strategies.”

    “So we go rum-bum-bum-bum”

    In a related study published in PLoS Genetics, Pervasive Sharing of Genetic Effects in Autoimmune Disease, authors identify several genetic variants which are implicated in more than one autoimmune disease.  This is the study I really tried to understand today to see if there were clues to a possible connection of multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Instead I learned that there are genes which both make you susceptible to one disease and protect you against the other.  Perhaps I don’t have that particular genetic variant.

    “Me mind on fire -- Me soul on fire -- Feeling hot hot hot” - Buster Poindexter

     

    Next week I'll have to tell you a story about heat and my stomach.  MS certainly can create some strange associations in the body. 

     

    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

     

Published On: August 12, 2011