Hunter researchers have helped to discover two more genes that have been linked to the development of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The research, published in this week’s international scientific journal Nature Genetics, provides clues to the causes of MS.
The discovery was made by the ANZgene consortium which is made up of Australian and New Zealand researchers from 11 centres including the Hunter.
Over 300 Hunter MS patients contributed their DNA to the study.
Hunter Medical Research Institute researcher and John Hunter Hospital neurologist Dr Jeannette Lechner Scott said while the work was in its early stages it could lead to new treatments for the disease.
She said it could also eventually lead to preventing MS in those who are genetically predisposed by avoiding environmental factors that trigger the disease’s development.
“For the prevention we would know how these predisposing genetic variants interact with the environment,” she said.
“Then if we know if you do have enough sun exposure or if you avoid viral infections that despite having the set of genes you might not develop it.”
Dr Lechner Scott said there were now about 11 genes that had been linked to MS and in the 20 years she had been involved in research on the disease discoveries were increasing exponentially.
MS sufferer Vicki Woods, of Largs, was diagnosed nearly 20 years ago and said the research gave new hope to those with the disease.
“I never ever envisaged they would find a cure in my lifetime and now I have no doubt, absolutely no doubt,” she said. Ms Woods said when she was first diagnosed she thought everyone with MS ended up in a wheelchair but now she knew that only happened in 20 per cent of cases.
MS affects more than 2.5 million people worldwide. It is thought to be a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
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