Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a horrible, cruel neurological disease, which is suffered by around 100,000 people in the UK. It is the gradual, permanent ‘dissolving’ of the muscles around the body including the heart and brain. It causes immobility, incontinence, personality change and ultimately death.
Scientists have been working on identifying exactly what causes such a disease, and since the mapping of the human genome in 2000 they have identified about 30 risk factors at genetic level. These are added to the 20 already known about, bringing the total number of genetic risk factors for developing the disease to 50.
The MS Society hopes that the findings will eventually lead to treatments and, hopefully, a cure.
The genetic ‘clues’ mainly point towards a problem with immunity: it has long been suspected that MS develops when the body’s own immune system turns against the body.
Other factors, like vitamin D intake and viruses are also thought to play a large part, perhaps in triggering the disease in those who are genetically susceptible. It most often occurs in people age 20 – 40 years and this combination of genetic and environmental factors are believed to be to blame.
If a parent has MS, their children have a 2% chance of also developing the disease.