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Title: Genetic and environmental factors influencing susceptibility to the complex disease multiple sclerosis
Author: Giulio, Disanto
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 8607
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Multiple sclerosis is a complex immune mediated condition of the central nervous system characterized by myelin loss and progressive neurodegeneration. The risk of developing MS is influenced by both genetic and environmental agents and, among them, several lines of evidence support a role for vitamin D deficiency, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection and smoking in the aetiology of this disease. The aim of this work was to further elucidate how nature and nurture act in the causal cascade leading to MS. In chapter 1, I show that the main genetic factor in adult MS (the HLA-DRB1*1501 allele) plays an equally important role in paediatric cases of MS (PMS) and that EBV negative PMS patients represent a separate entity characterized by lower age at disease onset, lower female to male ratio and a trend towards a lower frequency of the HLA-DRB1*1501 allele. In chapter 2, I provide evidence in support of month of birth having a role on MS risk and T cell production and that vitamin D may underlie this effect. In chapter 3 I demonstrate the presence of a link between vitamin D deficiency and the immune response against EBV, whereby the proportion of EBV seropositive MS patients and controls increases with increasing latitude and high dose vitamin D supplementation appears to reduce the level of antibodies against this virus. In chapter 4, I show that MS associated genetic variants are located in genomic regions that exert a regulatory function and are active in immune cell types. In chapter 5, I illustrate how vitamin D receptor binding is also located within active regulatory regions in immune cells and that this is particularly evident near MS associated genes. Finally, in chapter 6, I use chromatin data on more than 100 different cell types and conclude that MS associated genetic variants are particularly active in T helper, T cytotoxic and B cells. Further work is needed to elucidate how genetic and environmental agents play a role in the cause of MS and to develop effective strategies for disease treatment and prevention.
Supervisor: Ebers, George C.; Ramagopalan, Sreeram V. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Neuroscience ; Epidemiology ; Genetics (medical sciences) ; Multiple sclerosis ; risk factors ; genetics ; vitamin D ; Epstein-Barr virus