Norwegian researchers have mapped genetic variations associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) and myasthenia gravis (MG), bringing science one step closer to understanding these serious autoimmune disorders.
The Norwegian researchers have taken part in an international cooperative effort to map 110 genetic variations that increase the risk of MS and MG. Most of these genetic variations have been mapped in recent years.
“Rapid advances have been made in this area of research,” explains Hanne F. Harbo, professor at the University of Oslo and head of the clinical science group at Oslo University Hospital. She has received funding under the Research Council of Norway’s national initiative on neuroscientific research (NEVRONOR) to head Norwegian research projects on MS and MG. The projects have been carried out in close cooperation with an international network of researchers.
Participating in large international research projects, Dr Harbo and colleagues have helped to identify a number of new risk genes for MS and MG. This has contributed significantly to a breakthrough in the genetics of MS. The most important finding was that over 110 common risk variants show some sort of link to the risk of developing MS.
“We know that most of these risk variants on their own play little role in the development of MS. But mapping the collection of genes associated with MS represents an important advance in efforts to identify the key mechanisms behind its development,” Dr Harbo says. “Once we gain more insight into the mechanisms behind this disorder, it will be easier to shut down the pathways that trigger the disorder in cells,” she concludes.
There is no existing treatment to completely cure MS or MG, but new medications are constantly emerging that reduce inflammation and the role it plays in the disorder.
“We hope to use our research findings to improve the knowledge base for developing more effective methods of treatment,” Professor Harbo concludes.
Source: The Research Council of Norway
Photo showing MS demyelinisation (wikipedia)