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Study Ties Gene to Faster Progression of MS Symptoms

St. Paul, Minn. – Multiple sclerosis patients who were carriers of the APOE, or apolipoprotein E, gene are more likely to experience faster progression of disability from the disease, according to a study reported in the February 13, 2001 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. MS is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system characterized by flare-ups followed by remissions. APOE, important in lipid transport, also acts as a factor in nerve growth, and may advance the disease’s disabling symptoms. There are three common varieties of APOE and the APOE 4 allele has been consistently associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The study of the linkage between the APOE gene and MS progression was one of the largest to date, including 205 MS patients, 41 with the APOE gene, and 164 without. The appearance of the gene in the study subjects was consistent with the frequency it is found in the general population. Tests to measure disability status were performed every three to six months, beginning with the time of onset of the disease, and at five and 10 years following onset. According to study author Amos D. Korczyn, a neurologist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, there was a trend toward higher disability among the APOE group at five years, but the difference increased significantly at 10 years. “The proportion of patients considered to have progressive forms of MS was significantly higher among APOE carriers,” Korczyn said. The presence of the APOE gene also coincided with earlier onset of the disease. The average age of onset of the disease was 31.8 years old, while those without the APOE had an average onset age of 35.1.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 32,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

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