People with multiple sclerosis (MS) are bring invited to take part in new research, which aims to identify the genetic markers that can help diagnose the disease and predict its severity.
MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system, which causes a gradual degeneration of the nerves. This results in a progressive deterioration in various functions controlled by the nervous system, such as vision, speech and movement.
Around 2.5 million people worldwide are affected, including 9,000 people in Ireland.
MS can be very time consuming and difficult to diagnose as symptoms can vary widely between people and they can disappear for long periods. There is no one, single definitive test to identify it. Instead people must undergo a range of tests.
Genomics, which is the study of all of a person's genes (the genome), aims to reduce this complexity by identifying the genetic markers related to MS. This would lead to a more efficient and effective diagnosis, as well as treatment.
An Irish company, Genomics Medicine Ireland Ltd (GMI) has announced a new cross-border research collaboration that aims to identify these genetic markers. This marks the most comprehensive genomic study of MS ever undertaken in Ireland.
The hospitals and research centres involved in this study are Cork University Hospital, St Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin, Tallaght Hospital, Dublin and hospitals in the Western Health and Social Care Trust area, Northern Ireland, in conjunction with the Clinical Translational Research Centre (C-TRIC) at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.
Speaking at the launch of the collaboration, Aoife Kirwan fron Kildare, who was diagnosed with MS six years ago when she was just 23, noted that this study has the potential to help diagnose the disease at an early stage, ‘which is incredible'.
"Early detection and intervention with chronic illnesses like MS is important and any research that advances this is obviously very exciting. It's an extremely positive step and I'm thrilled that Ireland is the first country to undertake such a wide-ranging study, which could have implications not only for us in Ireland, but also for the MS community worldwide," she said.
Also speaking at the launch, Ava Battles, CEO of MS Ireland, noted that Irish people with MS tend to ‘embrace these types of research and want to encourage greater examination' of the disease.
"The more people who participate in this study, the greater the opportunity to make very significant breakthroughs into the causes of MS and into potential treatments. Ireland can take a lead within the global MS community to help accelerate discovery," she insisted.
People with MS who are attending any of the hospitals involved in the study, and who are interested in participating in the research, should ask their consultant for more information.
For more information on MS Ireland, click here