Viking gene suspected factor in multiple sclerosis




The genetic heritage
of the Vikings could be a factor
in the spread of the degenerative
neurological
disease multiple sclerosis (MS).
Researchers have noticed high
concentrations of
MS in Scandinavia and Northeast
Scotland, areas
with large Viking settlements in the
past.
In Finland, areas where MS occurs
more
frequently than elsewhere include
Ostrobothnia, the
upper reaches of the Eurajoki and
Kokemäenjoki
rivers, and in the northeast of the
southern area of
Uusimaa.
Dr. Pentti Tienari of the Clinic
of Neurology at the Helsinki
University Central Hospital has studied
the prevalence of MS in
Finland.

MS appears to be most frequent in areas
where the population is
largely of Northern European origin.
In North America the disease is
most common in Southern
Canada and in the parts of Minnesota
where large numbers of Finns
settled. The disease is rare in Asia and
Africa.
"The most recent studies in
molecular genetics in different
universities suggest that the effect of
genes on the geographic
appearance of the disease is greater in
Finland than previously
believed", Tienari says.
Currently experts feel that MS is
not caused by genetic factors
alone. Instead its emergence is believed
to involve a combination of
genetic and environmental factors. Seven
genes believed to increase
the risk of MS have been identified in
Finland.

Certain genetic factors have accumulated
in the population of South
Ostrobothnia, which are found among MS
patients in the area.
According to Tienari, they suggest that
genes with an MS risk factor
were brought into the area with a fairly
small original population. Over
generations, the factors became more
firmly established within the
limited gene pool with little dilution
from outside.
Kyrönmaa, a coastal region in
Ostrobothnia, has an exceptionally
high frequency of MS. Experts believe
that large numbers of people
moved to the area in the 13th century
from the Kokemäenjoki and
Eurajoki areas, which also have high
concentrations of the disease.
Residents of the areas on the two
rivers are known to have had
close contacts with Vikings about 1,000
years ago.
In other parts of Europe,
scientists have noticed a correlation
between the frequency of MS and a
history of a Viking presence.
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