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UCI researchers find link between environment and genetics in triggering MS
Date:5/31/2011

Irvine, Calif. Environmental and inherited risk factors associated with multiple sclerosis previously poorly understood and not known to be connected converge to alter a critical cellular function linked to the chronic neurologic disease, researchers with the UC Irvine Multiple Sclerosis Research Center have discovered.

The findings, which appear in the online, open-access journal Nature Communications, suggest that a unifying mechanism may be responsible for multiple sclerosis and point to therapies personalized according to genetic factors.

"MS results from complex interactions between an individual's genetics and his or her environment," said study leader Dr. Michael Demetriou, a UCI neurologist and associate director of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Center. "Defining how these come together to induce the disease is critical for developing a cure. We've taken a giant first step toward understanding this."

Using blood samples from about 13,000 people, Demetriou and colleagues identified the way environmental factors including metabolism and vitamin D3, obtained through either sunlight exposure or diet interact with four genes (interleukin-7 receptor-alpha, interleukin-2 receptor-alpha, MGAT1 and CTLA-4) to affect how specific sugars are added to proteins regulating the disease.

Earlier work on mice by Demetriou revealed that changes in the addition of these specific sugars to proteins engender a spontaneous MS-like disease. They also found that N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), a dietary supplement and simple sugar related to glucosamine, is able to suppress this process.

The current research shows that both vitamin D3 and GlcNAc can reverse the effects of four human MS genetic factors and restore the normal addition of sugars to proteins. "This suggests that oral vitamin D3 and GlcNAc may serve as the first therapy for MS that directly targets an underlying defect promoting disease," Demetriou said.

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Contact: Tom Vasich
tmvasich@uci.edu
949-824-6455
University of California - Irvine
Source:Eurekalert

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