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Gene variant makes drug ineffective for MS sufferers

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People with multiple sclerosis do not benefit from a class of drugs known as anti-TNFs if they have a particular genetic variant, researchers from Oxford University have found.

The scientists said the variant, found in a gene called TNFRSF1A, is the reason why the drugs, which can help patients with other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, do not work for many MS sufferers and can actually make their symptoms worse.

The TNF-signalling molecule plays an important role in the body and is responsible for a number of processes.

While the normal version of the TNFRSF1A gene binds the molecule, the variant leads to an alternative version which stops the molecule from transmitting signals.

This is the same thing anti-TNF drugs do, but the drugs can have a “considerably greater impact” on a person’s MS risk and resistance if their effect is amplified by the variant, lead researcher Lars Fugger of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences said.

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers said their findings explain why a previous study found anti-TNF drugs can make MS patients’ conditions significantly worse and exacerbate the disease.

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