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UBC research could hold promise of preventative treatments for some forms of MS

WATCH: What does it mean to live with MS?

New research from the University of British Columbia could one day lead to the development of preventative treatments for some people with multiple sclerosis.

That’s according to a recent study published in the journal PLOS Genetics, by an international team led by UBC.

READ MORE: It used to take 10 years to diagnose multiple sclerosis. Now it takes mere minutes

Researchers say they have identified mutations in 12 genes they believe are largely responsible for the onset of MS in cases where multiple members of a family develop the disease.

MS can leave people with mobility-affecting disability, as the body’s own immune system attacks and damages the protective sheath around nerve cells.

WATCH: A look at how far MS research has come

Brain Interrupted: A look at how far MS research has come
Brain Interrupted: A look at how far MS research has come

Researchers in the UBC study looked at 34 different families, sequencing all known genes in at least three family members who have MS.

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By looking at results from 132 patients, they were able to identify 12 mutations that researchers say can lead to an overactive immune system.

READ MORE: Understanding why MS rates are highest in Canada

“These genes are like a lighthouse illuminating where the root cause of MS is,” said Carles Vilariño-Güell, the study’s lead author and assistant professor in the UBC faculty of medicine’s department of medical genetics.

“Now, with knowledge of these mutations, which suggest a common biological process that leads to increased inflammation in MS families, we can try to address the root causes.”

Just 13 per cent of people with MS have a genetic form of the disease, according to UBC. However, the study estimated that 85 per cent of people who show the identified mutations have a chance of developing MS in their lifetimes.

Vilariño-Güell said researchers now plan to work with the mutations in animal models with the goal of eventually developing a preventive treatment for humans with the disease.

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