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The genetics of multiple sclerosis
  1. Rui Lin,
  2. Jac Charlesworth,
  3. Ingrid van der Mei,
  4. Bruce V Taylor
  1. Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Bruce V Taylor, Menzies Research Institute, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 23, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia, Bruce.Taylor{at}utas.edu.au

Abstract

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. Improved prevention and treatment will depend on a greater understanding of the causes and mechanisms involved in its onset and progression. MS is clearly driven by both environmental and genetic factors. Established contributory environmental factors include lower ultraviolet radiation exposure and lower vitamin D levels, Epstein-Barr virus and smoking. Our current understanding of MS genetics is undergoing a major upgrade as new genetic technologies are applied to large MS studies. In this article, we review the current literature describing a genetic contribution to MS susceptibility and review the methods to detect genetic variants that may underlie the genetic contribution to MS. We also consider how reporting of genetic discoveries in MS in the lay press has caused some confusion among patients and their families, who, not surprisingly, think that these discoveries can be translated into an available genetic test to diagnose MS or recognise family members at risk of developing MS. We review the current limited clinical use of genetics in the diagnosis and management of MS.

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Genetics

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