The key to why more women than men develop multiple sclerosis (MS) may be genes that influence physical traits, such as weight, height, and body shape, according to a new study.
Researchers caution that the findings need to be verified, but they said processes leading to disease may differ between the sexes — a crucial insight with implications for researching and treating MS.
The team from the University of California, San Francisco published the study, “Genetic Mechanisms Leading to Sex Differences Across Common Diseases and Anthropometric Traits,” in the journal Genetics.
Researchers analyzed data from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to search for patterns that might support or rule out hypotheses about the origins of sex differences in a number of diseases. They then compared those patterns with physical traits that differ between the sexes, such as height, body mass index (BMI), and waist-to-hip ratios. (GWAS is an approach that involves rapidly scanning markers across the complete sets of DNA, or genomes, of many people to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease. Identifying a gene variant that is linked to a characteristic often indicates nearby genes may be involved.)