US Hispanics Sought for Study of the Roles That Genetics and Culture Play in Severity of MS

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by Patricia Silva PhD |

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Study on Latinos with MS

University of Southern California researchers are recruiting 400 Hispanics who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the past two years for a study about genetics’ and cultural perceptions’ effect on the severity of the disease.

More specifically, the Keck School of Medicine team will look at whether the stressful process of acculturation plays a role in ethnic Latinos engaging in behaviors that could worsen MS. Acculturation is the process of social, psychological, and cultural change that accompanies the blending of cultures.

Eventually the researchers hope to identify acculturation-related risk factors in multiple sclerosis.

American Hispanics come from diverse genetic and cultural backgrounds. The rationale behind the study is that finding genetic and socio-cultural factors that could affect the development of MS could help advance research in the field, according to a press release,

Researchers will assess whether Asian, Native American, European or African genetic markers in Latinos’ DNA correlate with the severity of their disease. The study will last two years.

The research is being funded by a National MS Society grant. Dr. Lilyana Amezcua of the Keck School of Medicine will be the study’s principal investigator.

In addition to USC, the research will conducted at the University of Miami, University of New Mexico, and the Caribbean Neurological Center in Puerto Rico. All participants will have to visit one of the study sites.

Participants will answer questionnaires about acculturation and the perception of their condition, watch a short film about MS, and provide a blood sample. Researchers will do a DNA analysis of the sample to learn more about participants’ ancestry.

For more information about the study, including how to participate, please contact Andrea Martinez of the Keck School of Medicine at [email protected] or call 1 (323) 442-6817.

The National MS Society says MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. Research has shown that it occurs in most ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics, although it seems to be most common among Caucasians of northern European ancestry.

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