MS genetics

MS is not considered a hereditary disease. The risk of getting MS is higher in relatives of a person with the disease than in the general population, especially in the case of siblings, parents and children. However, there is only around a 2% chance of a child developing MS when a parent is affected.  It is important to consider that identical twins, who have the same genetic material, do not always both have MS. There is around a 20-30% chance of a twin of developing MS if their identical twin is affected. This is why researchers agree that MS is not simply a genetic disease.

However, a number of genetic variations have been shown to increase the risk of developing the disease. Research into the genetics of MS involves the search for genes that contribute to susceptibility and/or to the severity and other aspects of the disease, including the response to treatments. Apart from familial studies, specific genes have been linked with MS. The majority of them involve genes that influence specific cells of the immune system. These are also the genes that seem to contribute more significantly than others to the susceptibility of the disease. Differences in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system, a group of genes that serves as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in humans, also influence the probability of getting MS.

The search for MS genes is important because their discovery will provide vital information on which biological mechanisms influence the disease. This will lead to a better understanding of what causes MS and to the development of new approaches to treatment and prevention.

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