Ancient genomes reveal origins of multiple sclerosis risk in Europe

Ancient genomes reveal origins of multiple sclerosis risk in Europe – A groundbreaking study published in Nature has unearthed the hidden threads woven into the tapestry of multiple sclerosis (MS) risk in Europe. By meticulously analyzing a vast dataset spanning millennia, researchers have illuminated how ancient migrations, environmental pressures, and the intricate tapestry of human ancestry shaped the genetic landscape of this chronic neurological disease.

Key findings:

Steppe migration linked to MS risk: The study pinpoints the arrival of Yamnaya-related pastoralists from the Pontic Steppe around 5,000 years ago as a key event in shaping MS risk in Europe. These populations carried genetic variations associated with the disease, which underwent positive selection due to factors like changing pathogens and lifestyle.

HLA region crucial: Specific regions of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex, known for its role in immune response, showed the strongest connection to steppe ancestry and MS risk. This reinforces the importance of genetic predisposition in the disease.

Local ancestry matters: The study shows that “local ancestry,” the relative contribution of different ancestral populations at specific genetic loci, can be more informative than overall ancestry in predicting MS risk. This provides a finer-grained understanding of the disease’s genetic underpinnings.

Hunter-gatherer ancestry and RA: Interestingly, the study also investigated rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and found a distinct ancestral risk profile, with western and eastern hunter-gatherer ancestries contributing most to the genetic susceptibility.
Evolutionary story of immunity: The findings paint a picture of how human populations adapted to changing environments and pathogens over thousands of years, leaving a lasting impact on their immune response and disease risk patterns.


This study offers valuable insights into the complex interplay between genetics, environment, and migration in shaping the risk for MS and other autoimmune diseases. It paves the way for a deeper understanding of the disease’s origins and may inform the development of targeted prevention and treatment strategies.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological disease that affects people differently, with a wide range of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include.

  • Fatigue
  • Vision problems, such as blurred or double vision, and red-green color distortion
  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Muscle spasms, stiffness, and weakness, often in the legs
  • Mobility problems, such as difficulty walking or standing
  • Pain
  • Problems with thinking, learning, and planning
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sexual problems
  • Bladder and bowel problems
  • Speech and swallowing difficulties

The severity and duration of symptoms can vary, with some people experiencing mild or severe symptoms, short-term or long-lasting, and combinations of different symptoms depending on the area of the nervous system affected.

MS is often unpredictable, with periods of worsening symptoms (relapses) and periods of improvement or disappearance of symptoms (remissions).

How does multiple sclerosis affect vision?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) can affect vision in various ways, and it is common for people with MS to experience eye problems. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society notes that vision problems are often the first symptom of MS.

MS can cause inflammation and damage to the nerves controlling the muscles that move the eyes, leading to symptoms such as blurred sight, double vision, and vision loss.

Optic neuritis, which is inflammation of the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain, is a common symptom of MS and can cause temporary loss of vision in one eye, graying of vision, and pain with eye movement.

In advanced stages, MS may destroy the protective coating around the nerves, leading to permanent changes in eyesight and partial or total blindness in one or both eyes.

Treatments may help protect a person’s eyesight, slow the progress of MS, and prevent further damage. Study sourceĀ 

ALSO READ: Long COVID: Study Uncovers Immune Dysregulation in Patients


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