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Twins Study Points to Environmental Cause for MS
Date:4/28/2010

With near-identical DNA, why does one twin get the illness while the other does not?

WEDNESDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Genetics can't seem to explain why one twin would have multiple sclerosis while an identical twin doesn't, a new study finds.

That leaves scientists still stumped as to what causes multiple sclerosis (MS), although it's clearer than ever that environmental factors play a major role.

"We found that these twins had a lot of genetic risk factors for MS and yet the twins were born on the same day in the same family, grew up together, ate the same food, went to the same schools and they [both] had that predisposition, that set of risk factors. But, one developed the disease and one didn't," said study senior author Dr. Stephen Kingsmore.

"This points to some environmental trigger that protected one of the twins or triggered the disease in one of the twin members," added Kingsmore, who is CEO of the National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe, NM.

According to the researchers, this was the first use of a genome-wide analysis to study an autoimmune disease in identical twins.

The findings are published in the April 29 issue of Nature.

Little is known about the causes of MS, an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the myelin sheath that protects the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. It can cause vision problems, muscle weakness, and thinking and memory difficulties.

Genes -- not one, but many -- clearly play some kind of role, as do as-yet-unidentified environmental factors.

One mystery surrounding the disease has been why 30 to 40 percent of identical twin pairs develop MS, while the rest don't.

"What makes up the other 60 or 70 percent?" asked Patricia O'Looney, vice president of biomedical research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in New York City.

The researchers set out to see if ge
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