According to researchers from the University at Buffalo, New York, people who suffer from familial multiple sclerosis (familial MS) have brain lesions that are much more severe than those who suffer from sporadic, also called non-familial, forms of MS.
The researchers examined the brains of 759 patients suffering from MS using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. They noted that the 198 patients who suffered from familial multiple sclerosis had more destructed brain lesions, and also had a considerably lower volume of whole brain, white matter and grey matter. These patients also exhibited additional indications of more severe brain damage.
Furthermore, patients who had a first-degree relative, such as a parent, child or sibling, suffering from MS, had more severe lesions than those who had more distant relatives, a cousin rather than a brother for example, suffering from the disease. According to Dr. Robert Zivadinov, professor of neurology and research team leader, this demonstrates that the closer the relationship is, the greater the risk of MS becomes.
The data from the University at Buffalo research team supports the theory that genetic factors likely play a role in multiple sclerosis. Although it is thought that one or more genes could in fact influence the onset of the disease, further studies are required to support or refute this theory.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, debilitating and degenerative disease of the central nervous system. It is estimated that between 13,000 and 18,000 Quebecers suffer from MS. A lot of studies and research are currently underway in the hopes of better understanding this dreadful disease. Perhaps scientists will one day discover how to prevent or even cure MS…let us hope they do!