Oslo University Hospital (OUH) Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research group

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research group at Department of Neurology at Oslo University Hospital (OUH) aims to identify characteristics and susceptibility factors of MS, to contribute to a better understanding of the disease and development of better treatments.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that may lead to severe neurological deficits. The cause of MS is not fully known, but a combination of common and rare genetic variants and environmental factors may lead to disease development.

We perform genetic, immunological, clinical, epidemiological, environmental, MRI and translational studies of MS in collaboration with national and international research partners and networks. We have approvals for studies of approximately 800 MS patients collected in the Oslo MS Registry and Biobank, as well as access to several thousands of additional samples through collaborations with the Norwegian MS Registry and Biobank and the Nordic Network of MS Genetics. We also have active collaborations internationally, especially with the International MS Genetics consortium (IMSGC).


Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory, demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) that causes relapsing-remitting attacks (RR-MS) or a progressive disease (primary or secondary progressive MS) leading to different degrees of physical and cognitive disability. There is a global, latitudinal gradient of MS prevalence, with lower disease prevalence near the equator and an increasing prevalence in the Northern and Southern hemisphere. MS typically appears in young adults and affects females more than twice as often as males. Genetic susceptibility studies show that MS is a complex, multifactorial genetic disease, where several common genetic variants each exert a relatively small effect. The disease develops in genetic susceptible individuals, triggered by common environmental factors, e.g. reduced access to vitamin D, virus infection and smoking.

Figure: The prevalence of MS is associated with latitude, with an icreasing risk with distance from equator in the Southern and Northern hemisphere. The prevalence also follows the emigration routes of Western Europeans to North-America and Canada (Figure by A. Langdalen).

MS Research at Oslo University Hospital

Over more than twenty years, our group has established a local MS registry as well as local biobank with information and samples from patients who have approved to be registered. These data and samples are included in diverse research projects as approved by the Ethics Committee.

Clinical, paraclinical and epidemiological studies

Clinical information about disease characteristics and treatment, supplementary investigations as well as information collected by questionnaires are collected and included in ongoing projects. Especially, we have a focus on studies of magnetic resonance image (MRI) changes related to cognition and eye function as well as clinical and epidemiological studies of immigrants in Norway with MS and advanced MRI techniques in MS.

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Genetic studies

MS is a multifactorial disease with a clear genetic component. Early in the 1970's, the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) gene region was identified as an MS susceptibility gene region. Through genome-wide association studies (GWAS), and other large gene-mapping studies performed in collaboration with the International MS genetics consortium (IMSGC), the list of MS susceptibility loci is now increased from one to more than hundred loci. These studies have generated a wealth of data that has to be analyzed using advanced biostatistics to unravel disease mechanisms.


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Molecular immunology

We aim to study the impact of genetic associations in MS on immune cell pathways of importance for MS development. Furthermore, to link genetics with functional relevance, we currently perform functional characterization of selected MS associated, immune-related genes, using immune-based techniques such as Flow cytometry, Western blotting and ELISA.

 

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Functional genomics

We also collect samples, clinical data as well as questionnaire information from a very detailed characterized group of newly diagnosed MS patients with the aim to combine clinical and genetic information, and pursue cutting edge projects including expression analyses and epigenetic studies.