Edward asks, is there any research being undertaken into family connections with MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other autoimmune conditions, and could there be any causal genes?
So the answer is yes. In multiple sclerosis terms, the genetic contribution is very small, which is good news for people that have relatives with multiple sclerosis or for people who have children, for example, and are worried about the risk of MS. Because the genetic burden is low, it’s probably a small contribution from a large number of genes and some research that has been co-ordinated through the University of Cambridge recently has demonstrated up to 57 of these hotspots within the human genome contributing to a predilection to develop multiple sclerosis. And the exciting thing now is, is to understand what those genes do. The majority of those genes are involved in the immune system.
So what would the risk be to my child if I have MS?
So assuming that your partner also doesn’t have MS, then the risk would be about one in 25 or four per cent. Or the other way of looking at it is that 96% of the time everything would be okay. And in fact we know now that even if you had an identical twin with multiple sclerosis that your risk of developing MS yourself is only one in four and that tells you that the genetic burden of MS is actually relatively small, and so there’s obviously some interaction between genes and environment.