Causes of MS

MS is difficult to research because the areas affected are usually found in the brain and the spinal cord, which are not readily accessible areas of the body.  However, the use of MRI scans in recent years has greatly helped in furthering research into how this disease is caused and the development of drugs.  The exact cause of MS is unknown, however there are many theories that have been suggested to explain why MS occurs. 

Data shows that two thirds of people who suffer from the disorder are females therefore scientists have suggested that a possible cause could be hormones (male and females have differences in hormones therefore females may have the hormones that causes the disorder).  It has also been suggested that the presence of the Y chromosome in males could prevent them from developing the disease.

Nature versus nurture is one of the major debates about the cause of multiple sclerosis.  Twin studies are useful ways of determining whether genes are the likely cause of MS because identical twins have identical genes but non identical twins donít.

One twin study showed that if one twin had MS and they were identical then the other twin was 30% more likely to suffer from it compared to only 4% for non identical twins.  Thus providing evidence that MS could be genetically predisposed.  (The picture to the right is of DNA, taken from www.efa.org/images/ research/genes.jpg)

It has been suggested that environmental factors also have a role in the cause of MS.  Examples of such factors are common viruses (e.g. rubella) that have caused inflammation and loss of myelin in the central nervous system.  There are more MS sufferers in the north of the UK than in the south, there it has been suggested that people diets could have an effect.  It is thought that people in the north eat more fatty foods, therefore it could be said that unhealthy diets could be a cause, but this is a rather tedious link.   

(People in the north are more likely to suffer from the disease.  The map is taken from http://uk.maps.yahoo.com.)It appears to be that like cancer there are many possible causes of the neurological disorder and in order to be able to understand the disease further research needs to be completed.