30 (Xinhuanet) -- U.S. and European researchers reported Sunday to
have located two genes that appear to increase the risk of developing multiple
sclerosis (MS) -- a debilitating degenerative disease.
The findings are widely expected to help scientists
figure out what causes MS, a baffling disease of the central nervous system that
afflicts about 350,000 people in U.S.
"The hope is that new knowledge will lead to the
development of more targeted treatments," said Jonathan Haines, director of the
Center for Human Genetics Research at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Each of the two genetic variants raises a person's
risk of developing MS by about 30 percent. Haines said the genes would
have important implications for understanding the disease and ultimately for
MS is not directly inherited or caused by a single gene,
rather is known to be partly inheritable: people with close relatives who have
the condition are at higher risk.
Since the 1970s, however, only one gene that contributes
to a raised risk has been identfied. A variant of this gene, known as HLA, seems
to make the body worse at recognising its own tissue, and increases an
individual's chances of developing MS by up to four times.
Researchers knew that other genes probably play a
role, but the intense search to find them has been disappointing ¡ª until