Asking whether studying medical data on a large group of people over time can reveal possible risk factors contributing to the development of MS
Miguel Hernan, MD, DrPH
Harvard School of Public Health
Area: Central New England Chapter
Award: Research Grant
Term: 9/30/01 - 9/30/04
Identifying the cause of chronic diseases such as MS is a complex process, and epidemiology plays a crucial role in this search. By studying large numbers of people with MS, epidemiologists hope to make major headway in identifying risk factors for the disease.
Miguel Hernan, MD, DrPH, is studying just such a population – more than 4 million people who are registered in the United Kingdom’s General Practice Research Database. His team includes investigators who have used this tool, which tracks medical data of individuals over time, to unearth valuable information that might be informative about the development of a whole host of diseases. Dr. Hernan is searching the database for individuals who have MS, and is gathering such general information as the age of diagnosis and sex, as well as more specific information that might reveal possible MS risk factors, such as: use of oral contraceptives and other sex hormones, smoking, hepatitis B vaccination, and viral infection. The team also is studying the relationship between MS and other conditions, such as allergy and diabetes. They are attempting to analyze risk factors for different clinical courses of MS (e.g., relapsing-remitting, secondary-progressive) separately.
This study is one of the largest ever conducted on risk factors for MS, and may lead to a greater understanding of how this disease develops.