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March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

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deCODEme calculates your genetic risk for Multiple Sclerosis

deCODEme calculates your genetic risk for Multiple Sclerosis

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) encourages Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness during March 2009.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological disorder diagnosed in young adults.  It is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system; the brain, nerves and spinal cord, that damages the protective insulation (known as “myelin”) surrounding the nerves. As a result, nerve impulses carrying messages from the brain and spinal cord are disturbed, causing a variety of symptoms such as visual disorders, weakness, dizziness, and various movement disorders, to name but a few.

The causes of MS are not fully understood. With better understanding of the disease, more effective ways will be found to treat it in the future, and hopefully prevent it from occurring in the first place. Significant steps towards better understanding of MS have however been made.

Researchers have for example found that although the disease is not directly inherited, genetics play an important role in who gets the disease.  Studies have revealed that the risk of developing MS for an average person is 1/750 but the risk rises to 1/40 for a person who has a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with the disease. Even though identical twins share the same genetic makeup, the risk for an identical twin is only 1/4, showing that factors other than genetics are involved.

The deCODEme Complete Genetic Scan includes a test that calculates a person’s genetic risk for MS according to the best scientific data available to date. While the test cannot determine whether you will or will not develop MS, it can, on the basis of a comparison of your personal genetics to the genetics of large groups of people with and without MS, give you an estimate of your lifetime risk of developing this disease. This, combined with other risk factors, can give you an estimate of your overall risk.

Other factors involved in the development of MS that have been identified are

  • MS is more common in people of Northern European descent than in people of other ethnicities, and more common in women than men.
  • Viruses and bacteria have been suspected of contributing to the development of MS because patients with MS typically have a higher number of immune cells than a healthy person. Some researchers theorize that MS may develop in genetically susceptible people, after they have been exposed to a viral or bacterial infection.
  • MS is more common in countries with temperate climates, including Europe, southern Canada, northern United States, southeastern Australia and New Zealand. The reason for this is unknown, but geographic studies suggest that it may be due to environmental factors, genetic factors, or both.

Visit The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America for more about the disease
Visit deCODEme to learn more about the Multiple Sclerosis Genetic Test.

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