Scientists find genetic markers for severe form of MS

September 20, 2017
Scientists have uncovered two related cytokines and associated genetic markers that may explain why some people develop progressive multiple sclerosis.
Researchers at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, and Yale University identified a cytokine, called macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), along with the protein D-dopachrome tautomerase (D-DT), that are linked to progressive MS. Cytokines are a type of protein that are important in signaling between cells in the body. These particular cytokines can worsen the disease by increasing inflammation within the central nervous system. Researchers also identified two genetic markers that enhance expression of MIF and D-DT that occurred more frequently in MS patients with progressive disease, particularly in men.
These findings suggest that a simple genetic test could be used to identify MS patients at risk of developing the more severe form of the disease. The study authors are now working on developing a medication that targets these cytokines, which they believe might stop the disease in its tracks.
Scientists made the discovery through the observation of 117 participants with MS along with DNA analysis of plasma samples. In addition, researchers determined in laboratory studies that a therapeutic medication previously developed to successfully treat MS-like disease progression in rodents could block functional activities of both MIF and D-DT.
Researchers say the findings may open the door to the use of precision medicine for preventing and treating the progressive form of MS. Although there are 14 FDA-approved therapies for the remitting-relapsing form of MS, there is only one treatment for progressive MS.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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