Statistically more women than men develop multiple sclerosis (MS), but new research may have discovered why.
Researchers of the study ‘Genetic Mechanisms Leading to Sex Differences Across Common Diseases and Anthropometric Traits’ believe genes that influence weight, height and body shape may be the reason more women develop MS.
The research team from the University of California, San Francisco analysed data from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to search for patterns that might support or rule out their hypotheses regarding the origins of sex differences in a number of diseases including MS.
GWAS is an approach that involves rapidly scanning markers across the complete sets of DNA, or genomes, of many people to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease. Such studies are particularly useful in finding genetic variations that contribute to common, complex diseases, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental illnesses.
Researchers then compared those patterns with physical traits that differ between the sexes, such as height, body mass index (BMI), and waist-to-hip ratio.
However, they also noted that the findings need to be verified, but said processes leading to diseases such as MS may differ between the sexes — a crucial insight with implications for researching and treating the condition.
Few studies have looked at the genetic differences between sexes using a comprehensive genome-wide perspective. Many have just analysed small sections of the genome with one set hypothesis.
Researchers also explored whether testosterone or oestrogen, or differences in male and female chromosomes could explain the difference in disease risk between sexes.
When it came to MS and a number of other conditions, the researchers found common genetic factors that influence physical traits do impact the risk of developing disease.
Source: MS-UK (27/01/17)