More MS news articles for Nov 2001

Susceptibility, Progression of MS Linked to Genes

Updated: Mon, Nov 26 7:51 PM EST

LONDON (Reuters) - People suffering from multiple sclerosis can blame it on their genes, scientists said on Tuesday.

Susceptibility to and progression of the chronic, debilitating disease of the central nervous system is largely determined by genes, they said.

Scientists who studied pairs of siblings with the illness found that although only one-third had the same initial symptoms, once the disease was established its development was very similar.

"These results are consistent with the hypothesis that genes influence both disease susceptibility and evolution in multiple sclerosis," said Professor Alastair Compston of Addenbrooke's Hospital at the University of Cambridge in England.

In a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, Compston and his colleagues said the progression of the disease was identical in 50 percent of the siblings they studied.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an auto-immune disease in which immune system cells destroy the sheath which protects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The illness causes pain, paralysis and tremors and affects about one million people worldwide.

The symptoms depend on where in the brain the sclerosis appears. The illness is more common in colder countries and in women than in men.

There is no cure for the episodic symptoms of MS but injections of beta-interferon are used to prevent relapse.

Compston said the study showed that within a family the initial symptoms of the illness were likely to be different but the course of the disease and the disability it caused would probably be similar.

© 2001 Reuters Limited