Studies open for enrollment

Multiple sclerosis is the most common cause of non-traumatic neurological disability in young adults, affecting approximately 2.3 million people worldwide and more than 400,000 individuals in the US.

In the last two decades MS related research has become one of the most productive areas of clinical neuroscience and has delivered remarkable progress on multiple fronts, including the identification of multiple DNA variants determining inherited risk, the deconstruction of the immunology underlying focal inflammatory demyelination, the unprecedented resolution of central nervous system imaging, and most notably, the development of an extensive repertoire of therapeutic agents capable of suppressing the relapsing aspects of disease.

Due primarily to highly coordinated international efforts, the genetic underpinnings responsible for MS susceptibility have now been substantially clarified. There are, however, significant questions that remain to be answered to maximize the value of genetic research in MS, including the role of genetics in determining the clinical trajectory of the disease or the favorable response to treatment.

To address these questions we build recent extraordinary developments in understanding the human genome, but more important, we relay on the cooperation of thousands of altruistic individuals who donate their blood to these experiments. The demonstration of even a modest functional effect of a known gene or group of genes on the course of MS has great potential to elucidate fundamental disease mechanisms that drive neurodegeneration and yield novel prognostic and therapeutic opportunities for progressive MS, the major unmet need in the field.

Case/Control Study

It is important to study the genetic differences that exist between individuals with and without MS. In this study, we take advantage of the discovery of many hundreds of thousands of genetic markers scattered across the genome. The markers are of little or no functional consequence themselves, but do provide reliable and stable taggers to which we can return for additional analysis. If a gene of interest lies close to one of these signposts, we can compare that gene in MS patients and non-MS controls.

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Multi-Case Family Study

This study is for families in which multiple, living family members have been diagnosed with MS. Studies show that the risk of developing MS is about 1 in 750 to 1 in 1000 in the population. The risk of a sibling of a person with MS is 20 to 40 fold higher. The study of families with multiple-affected individuals allows us to identify genes, or clusters of genes, that two or more MS affected siblings have inherited in common. Families with an affected parent and an affected child are of particular interest.

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Quartet Study

This study focuses on families with one parent with MS, one parent without MS, and an affected child. Our goal is to identify and characterize heritability patterns of genetic variants linked to risk from the affected and unaffected parent to the affected child.

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ARHMS (Alliance for Research in Hispanic MS) Study

Despite MS now being increasingly diagnosed among the Hispanics and Latinos, few comprehensive studies exist. The ARHMS study is a newly formed consortium intended to bring scientists across multiple leading MS Centers with an interest in understanding the factors that drive MS risk and progression in the diverse US Hispanic population.

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African American Study

Multiple Sclerosis is a recognized disorder of African Americans, but the problem of MS in this community has not been adequately addressed since members of this group are thought to develop the disease less frequently than European Americans. Knowledge of ancestry is important in research studying diseases that behave differently in different ethnic groups. In fact, the study of populations with unique clinical, demographic, and/or historic characteristics has been shown to be extraordinarily informative in deciphering the genetics of cancer and other complex diseases, including MS.

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Twins Study

Monozygotic (identical) twins share 100% of their genetic identity. That is, their genes are identical and in the exact same order/combination, yet they only have a 30% disease concordance. Twin studies provide important clues about the role of non-genomic and environmental factors involved in MS.

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Pediatric Study

Although the onset of multiple sclerosis usually occurs in young adulthood, approximately 5% of MS patients develop symptoms in childhood or adolescence. Currently, there is very limited literature concerning those who develop MS before 18 years of age. This means that the impact of the disease on neurologic function, cognition, academic achievement, and psychosocial adjustment in pediatric MS patients is relatively unknown. The primary goal of this investigation is to identify the underlying genetic causes of early onset MS. This study is in collaboration with the MS Pediatric Groups at UCSF and at the National Pediatric Center in Stony Brook, New York. Individuals interested in this study are referred to the UC San Francisco MS Pediatric Group.

For more information on how to participate, please visit the pediatric website.

Microbiome Study

The human body harbors more bacterial than human cells. Multiple families of these bacterial cells co-exist in a delicate equilibrium that is essential for maintaining a general state of well being. It has been recently shown that deviations from this equilibrium (caused by environmental effects, genetic causes or both) can result in disease. In this project we will study and compare the bacterial compositions present in the gut of MS patients at different stages of the disease and healthy individuals. These experiments will likely shed light on what are the beneficial and harmful microbial populations that associate with MS, and the possible mechanisms by which they can cause disease.

For more information on how to participate, please visit the microbiome website.