Study Finds Individual Gene Has Role in MS Treatment

Researchers discovered a gene that may play a part in how MS patients respond to some medication.

Study Finds Individual Gene Has Role in MS Treatment

By Multiple Sclerosis Connect Staff Published at September 4, 2015 Views 2,941 Comments 1 Likes 1

Diagnosing and treating MS as soon as possible can make a big difference in the life of someone coping with the disease. That's why a recent study could give those with an MS diagnosis who aren't responding to treatment more hope.

A study led by doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and published in the Annals of Neurology found that a certain gene variant may play a part in how patients react to interferon beta, an injectable drug used to treat many MS symptoms.

According to the website MedlinePlus, the drug both slows the disease and treats weakness, numbness, and affected motor skills for those patients who have MS symptoms that come and go. Scientists, though, still don't know how the medication works.

The cause of MS is unknown, and the chronic illness leads the immune system to attack the central nervous system, leading to disruption between the brain and the rest of the body.

Suspect gene

According to the study's researchers in Boston and at MS research centers in Italy and France, the gene SLC9A9 might predict whether a patient responds to interferon beta or not. Scientists in all three countries studied the genomes of MS patients taking interferon beta and deduced that the single gene played a role in whether the drug was effective or not.

"This study highlights the fact that genetic variation has a role in the course of a patient's disease in MS, but that this role is modest and will require much larger studies to be understood in detail," said Dr. Philip De Jager, one of the study's authors based at the Boston hospital. "We need to expand this type of international, collaborative science."

Gene role

Even though the gene appears to play a role in patient response to the drug, researchers advised that it was a small role and that more testing needs to be done. Loss of the gene, though, may lead immune cells to damage the body.

For now, researchers plan to continue studying how changes to the specific gene may affect the body's response to the disease.

"Manipulations of this gene in mice and in human cells will lead us to better understand mechanisms that are involved in the autoimmune response that causes MS," said Wassim Elyaman, one of the study's researchers at the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, mutations in the gene are associated with a risk of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Continued testing

Dr. Filippo Martinelli Boneschi, of the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan and one of the study's researchers, added that the next step will be to see whether the gene only affects patients taking interferon beta, or if it'll react differently in patients taking other MS medications.

Discovering SLC9A9's role comes approximately two years after Australian researchers found 48 new genes - bringing the total to 110 - that have an effect on developing MS, according to

For more on treating MS:

MS Treatment Side Effects
Great Supplements for MS
New Drug for MS Found Effective in Clinical Trials

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