MS is a common, complex neurological disease. Although the precise aetiology of MS is not yet known numerous studies indicate that both genetic and environmental factors are important. It now appears that the environment acts long before MS becomes clinically evident and suggests the existence of a prodromal phase for the disease. The possibility of a prodrome indicates a window of opportunity to potentially reverse early disease processes before clinical disease becomes evident. Studying a prodrome requires techniques other than clinical observation such as monitoring “endophenotypes” that result from associated risk factors. Identifying and studying individuals, for example family members of people with MS, with a high risk of developing the disease provides a powerful opportunity to understand the MS causal cascade and is highly relevant to strategies that are aimed at preventing this debilitating disease.
We are therefore recruiting people with MS who have brothers and/or sisters without MS, and people with MS who are twins (identical and non-identical) to explore the possible cause of MS. Twins will help us understand the cause of disease and the influence of early environmental exposures; identical twins have the same genetic background and twins in general share the same early environment, which can be different when looking at non twins and unrelated individuals.