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Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Gene interaction tied to risk of developing multiple sclerosis
Variations in two genes could significantly increase the odds of developing multiple sclerosis, according to a new study by a team of Duke researchers.
The scientists discovered a new interaction between a gene called IL7R—which past studies have demonstrated contributes to the likelihood of developing MS—and a gene that plays an important role in regulating it, called DDX39B. They hypothesized that a variation in these genes would produce a different protein—one more likely to cause MS.
“If you happen to be an individual that has the variants of both genes, you have a much higher chance of developing MS,” said Mariano Garcia-Blanco, co-lead author of the study and chair of the department of molecular biology and biochemistry at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Garcia-Blanco explained that the study's research focused on controlling the expression of "soluble IL7R," or the soluble form of a receptor that is important in activating the immune cells causing the neural damage associated with MS.
The difference between soluble IL7R and the standard IL7R protein is a portion of a gene known as an exon, which is the sequence of a gene's DNA that contains information about the coding for a protein sequence. Garcia-Blanco explained that the same gene could produce multiple versions of a protein in a process known as alternative splicing.
“What alternative splicing does is akin to what an editor in the film industry can do,” he said.