The data, which showed no link between this mutation and an increased risk of MS, highlights the need for more studies about the role of FTO in MS progression in order to determine the best therapeutic interventions in patients carrying this mutation.
The study, “The FTO gene polymorphism rs9939609 is associated with obesity and disability in multiple sclerosis patients,” was published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
MS is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Several studies have suggested that obesity increases the risk of developing MS, and is associated with increased MS disability and progression.
While the underlying mechanisms of obesity’s contribution to MS remain unclear, evidence points to obesity-related chronic low-grade inflammation and release of immune-related molecules and changes in the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain).
Previous studies have associated the presence of a common mutation in the FTO gene — called rs9939609 — with obesity in several populations. The exact role of the FTO protein is unknown, but researchers believe it is involved in the regulation of fat production and energy balance, as well as in nerve cell development and food-craving behavior.
The link between rs9939609 FTO mutation and obesity, as well as between obesity and MS risk, suggest that the mutation may have a role in MS development, and be the underlying mechanism linking obesity and MS. However, there is limited data on FTO mutations in MS patients and how they may be associated.
Researchers set out to evaluate the potential link of this FTO mutation with overweight/obesity, MS risk, and MS-related disability in Kuwaiti MS patients. The mutation previously had been associated with obesity in the Kuwaiti population.
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