A research team from Australia and New Zealand claims that they have identified two new gene locations that appear to be linked to multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.
"For decades the cause of MS has remained a mystery. This discovery reveals important new insights into the genetic susceptibility to the disease," Nature magazine quoted Professor Trevor Kilpatrick, Director for Neurosciences at the University of Melbourne, as saying.
In a genome-wide study, the researchers have found two new gene locations in chromosomes 12 and 20.
"They also reveal a link between genetic susceptibility to MS and other autoimmune diseases including Type 1 diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Graves' Disease and the also the potential involvement of Vitamin D metabolism in the risk of developing these diseases," said Kilpatrick.
"These results are like the key in the door, leading us to where to look for MS susceptibility," he added.
Dr. Justin Rubio of Florey Neurosciences Institutes, who coordinated the study along with Kilpatrick, said that the new discovery was a major advancement.
"We expect that within one to two years we will be able to fine map these new regions and identify the genetic changes that underpin these findings," said Rubio.
"Our next steps include studying how changes in these target genes might influence the development of MS. This work could provide insight into the development of novel therapeutics," he added.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Genetics.