The number of genetic variants which are related to risk of multiple sclerosis has just doubled. Given the continued rapid rate of decline in the costs of genetic testing and genetic sequencing the corresponding explosion in genetic discoveries as in this report should not come as a surprise.
Dr. John Rioux, researcher at the Montreal Heart Institute, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Université de Montréal and original co-founder of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium is one of the scientists who have identified 29 new genetic variants linked to multiple sclerosis, providing key insights into the biology of a very debilitating neurological disease. Many of the genes implicated in the study are relevant to the immune system, shedding light onto the immunological pathways that underlie the development of multiple sclerosis.
The research, involving an international team of investigators led by the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and funded by the Wellcome Trust, was published today in the journal Nature. This is the largest MS genetics study ever undertaken and includes contributions from almost 250 researchers as members of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium and the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium.
That many of these genes play a role in immune function adds support for the theory that M.S. is either an auto-immune disorder or some other malfunction of the immune system.
At least 29 new genetic associations were added to the existing 23 known genetic associations with M.S.
In this multi-population study, researchers studied the DNA from 9,772 individuals with multiple sclerosis and 17,376 unrelated healthy controls. They were able to confirm 23 previously known genetic associations and identified a further 29 new genetic variants (and an additional five that are strongly suspected) conferring susceptibility to the disease.
It used to be the case that just finding one genetic association was a big discovery. Now a single study turns up at least 29 associations and 5 more suspected associations. That's what happens when the volume of data that can be collected goes up by orders of magnitude due to due to orders of magnitude declines in genetic sequencing costs.
Another recent study on genetic influences on intelligence provides another illustration of how cheap DNA testing technology has made large scale searches for genes that each play small roles in some attribute or disease.
Rapid advances in technology have improved the efficiency and dramatically lowered the cost of genome-wide scans like the one conducted by Deary and colleagues.
“We now have the tools to look at large numbers of genes in large numbers of people at the same time,” says Julio Licinio, MD, of Australia’s National University Canberra.
The brain gene scan for intelligence only used 3500 subjects. Since the genes contributing to intelligence are suspected of being large in number with each playing only a small role it is necessary to use hundreds of thousands or millions of people to identify each of the genes that contribute to intelligence. But given the continued rapid decline in genetic technology that scale of research is going to become possible in a few more years. Our Dark Ages of understanding of human genetics is about to come to an end.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2011 August 10 10:52 PM Biotech Genetic Diseases|