MS Gene is More Common in Women

Study finds women with MS are more likely to have a certain gene variation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In search of the cause of multiple sclerosis (MS), researchers are currently examining the genetic environment in which the disease arises.

According to a new study, a gene linked to the occurrence of MS is more commonly found in women than in men.

The study, which was published in an online issue of Neurology, found that women are more likely to have the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II gene, the main gene related to MS.

With about 200 new diagnoses each week, MS affects approximately 400,000 people in the United States. An estimated 2.1 million people suffer from MS worldwide. As the number of new MS diagnoses rises, the rate of new diagnoses in women is growing faster than that in men. The findings of this study shed light on the cause of this growing statistic.

In this study, researchers analyzed the HLA genes of families with more than one MS diagnosis in the family. They studied the purpose of HLA genes in those with and without MS, from which parent those with MS inherited the HLA gene, and what the relationship was between family members with an MS diagnosis in the family.

After testing the genes of 7,093 people, including 2,127 people with MS, the researchers found that 919 women with MS had the HLA gene variant while 626 did not. They saw less of a difference in men: 302 men with MS had the variant while 280 did not. These results show that the HLA gene variant is 1.4 times more likely to be found in women with MS than in men with MS.

The study also found that women with the HLA gene variant are more likely to pass on the variation to other women in their families than to men, according to George C. Ebers, M.D., FMedSCi, from the University of Oxford and member of the American Academy of Neurology.

According to Orhun Kantarci, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic and writer of an editorial on the study, the findings from this study should encourage future research of the HLA gene variation in order to increase our comprehension of diseases like MS.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 6, 2011
Last Updated:
January 6, 2011