New research from researchers based at The Westmead Institute in Sydney has drawn a link between the genetic and environmental circumstances of multiple sclerosis, which affects 2.1 million people worldwide, most of whom are diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age.
The project capitalises on data from a landmark 2013 study that profiled the DNA of 30,000 multiple sclerosis ( MS ) patients worldwide.
The study found there are more than 100 genetic risk factors of multiple sclerosis, which is characterised by the scarring of tissue in the central nervous system.
Researchers worked backwards to find the cellular source of two of the 110 genes associated with multiple sclerosis, called EOMES and TBX21.
Using blood samples from 50 patients of Westmead Hospital ( Australia ), they were able to identify the immune cell CD56+ as largely responsible for expressing the two risk factor genes. In MS patients, CD56+ cells were found to be inactive or deficient compared with the general population.
The study has shown that whether these risk factor genes are turned on or off in the CD56+ cell, it is related to Vitamin D activation.
Researchers are yet to see whether enhancing Vitamin D activation will begin to turn on the genes expressed by the CD56+ cells, and whether this will alter multiple sclerosis symptoms.
Potentially this research could lead to finding an environmental trigger for the disease or therapies that slow or prevent relapse of multiple sclerosis. ( Xagena )
Source: Westmead Hospital, 2016