June 4, 2004
Boston Cure Project
A recent large scale genetic study involving 2,860 Caucasians and 1,071 African Americans found evidence that variants of the NOS2A gene (or another nearby gene on chromosome 17) affect the risk of MS. This study analyzed 34 genes that act in inflammatory processes; of these, only NOS2A variants were found to be differently distributed to a significant degree in people with MS and non-MS controls. Two previous studies of the NOS2A gene had failed to find an association with MS; however these involved fewer people and may not have been powerful enough to detect a modest effect on MS risk.
The NOS2A gene encodes a protein called inducible nitric oxide synthase
2 (iNOS), which synthesizes nitric oxide, a free radical. Nitric oxide
helps with signal conduction in the brain, but excessive amounts can damage
neurological tissue. The results of this genetic study suggest that variants
that alter the production or activity of iNOS could help trigger MS. Further
research is now needed to investigate these and other NOS2A variants to
determine which play a role in MS and how they do so.
Copyright © 2004, Boston Cure Project