Modest familial risks for multiple sclerosis

January 22, 2014

Even though multiple sclerosis is largely caused by genetic factors, the risk of patients relatives developing the disease is lower than previously assumed. This is the conclusion of a new population registry-based study, published in the scientific journal Brain.

In the present study from Karolinska Institutet, researchers have assessed the familial for (MS) by using population registers and health care registries. This way, the researchers were able to include in their study almost everyone diagnosed with the disease in Sweden. Slightly over 28,000 individuals diagnosed with MS from 1968 onwards were identified. By using the Swedish Multi-generation registry, both biological and adopted were identified and the researchers could assess the risks for the different groups.

This is the first study for MS in which the familial risks have been analysed using matched controls. By including randomly selected controls and their relatives, the researchers could also assess the risk for relatives of MS patients developing the disease compared to the risk for the population in general.

The estimated risks in this study turned out lower than the previously reported high risks. The risk for a sibling to a person with multiple sclerosis for developing disease was seven times higher compared to the general population, while the risk for a child of an MS patient was five times higher. The study found no increase in risk for grandchildren and nieces/nephews.

"The population registers in Sweden are reliable tools for finding relatives to MS patients and their possible MS diagnosis, instead of relying on the patients' memories. Our study is a good example of how one can quickly achieve more reliable results than the previous studies that were based on patient groups collected in hospitals throughout decades", says Helga Westerlind, a doctoral student at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience and first author of the article.

The researchers have also used the Swedish twin register to identify twins with multiple sclerosis and investigate how genes, shared environment and individual risk factors contribute to the disease. The analysis confirmed previous results: MS seems to be primarily caused by , and secondarily by individual risk factors. A shared environment does not appear to be of any significance.

Explore further: High risk of cardiovascular diseases amongst Swedish-born and immigrant MS patients

More information: Helga Westerlind, Ryan Ramanujam, Daniel Uvehag, Ralf Kuja-Halkola, Marcus Boman, Matteo Bottai, Paul Lichtenstein, Jan Hillert. "Modest familial risks for multiple sclerosis - a registry based study of the population of Sweden." Brain, e-pub ahead of print 17 Jan 2014. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24441172?dopt=AbstractPlus

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Neural basis of multitasking identified

September 1, 2015

What makes someone better at switching between different tasks? Looking for the mechanisms behind cognitive flexibility, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Germany's Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim ...

Deciphering the olfactory receptor code

August 31, 2015

In animals, numerous behaviors are governed by the olfactory perception of their surrounding world. Whether originating in the nose of a mammal or the antennas of an insect, perception results from the combined activation ...

New type of prion may cause, transmit neurodegeneration

August 31, 2015

Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a neurodegenerative disorder with similarities to Parkinson's disease, is caused by a newly discovered type of prion, akin to the misfolded proteins involved in incurable progressive brain diseases ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.