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Scientists around the world, including 3 Catalan research centres, identify 29 new genetic combinations behind multiple sclerosis

The Vall d'Hebron Research Institute, the Multiple Sclerosis Centre of Catalonia and IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic of Barcelona are included in the 131 medical institutions that participated in the world study.

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12 August 2011 11:20 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN) .- A scientific study conducted by 250 researchers has identified 29 new genetic variants which are thought to lead to the development of multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disease that affects about 2.5 million people worldwide. The investigation was led by Cambridge and Oxford University with a total of 131 participating institutions, including the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute, the Multiple Sclerosis Centre of Catalonia and IDIBAPS- Hospital Clínic of Barcelona. The results of the study were published last Thursday in the Journal 'Nature'. It is hoped that by understanding what triggers the disease, methods for the treatment and even the prevention of the disease can be developed. Currently multiple sclerosis has no cure.


The research was conducted by the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium and Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium with a team of 250 researchers. It is one of the greatest studies ever to have been conducted on Multiple Sclerosis, the most common and unpredictable neurological disease among young adults.

The investigation analysed the differences between the DNA of 9,772 patients with the disease, against 17,376 healthy control samples. According to scientists, the genetic variations are "important" in understanding how the immune system functions. They believe that the information they have gained about the immunological pathways can be applied to observing and preventing the development of the disease.

Among the 131 institutions that have collaborated in the study, within the state, only the Catalan centres of Vall d'Hebron Research Institute, the Multiple Sclerosis Centre of Catalonia and IDIBAPS - Hospital Clínic of Barcelona took part. This adds to the reputation that Catalonia has earned in the field of biomedicine. The Catalan hospitals contributed to the research by providing DNA samples from patients with the disease as well as clinical advice.

Multiple Sclerosis is one of the most common neurological disorders which affect both cognitive and physical functions. Typically, the disease progresses over time going through stages of relapse and remission although its course is hard to predict. It is the result of damage to the protective sheaths which surround the nerves and thus prevents messages being effectively sent from the central nervous system to the rest of the body. Symptoms vary amongst all sufferers, but typically include loss of sight, an inability to swallow and a loss of limb control.

According to Dr. Alastair Compston, one of the scientists at the University of Cambridge who led the research, the ability to identify the genetic basis of susceptibility to suffer any given disease, "provides reliable knowledge about the mechanisms that cause it". Comptson believes that this study gives hope to those living with Multiple Sclerosis as it provides the foundation upon which more research and debate can take place about the different processes of the disease and the creation of a cure.

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  • An annual raising awareness action to develop research on Multiple Sclerosis held in 600 Catalan swimming pools each summer

  • An annual raising awareness action to develop research on Multiple Sclerosis held in 600 Catalan swimming pools each summer