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Relating Genetic and Environmental Risk Scores to Multiple Sclerosis Susceptibility

This study is currently recruiting participants.
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Verified December 13, 2016 by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) Identifier:
First received: June 8, 2012
Last updated: April 20, 2017
Last verified: December 13, 2016


- Research shows that both genes and the environment influence a person s risk for getting multiple sclerosis (MS). However, it is not possible to accurately predict who will develop MS. Researchers want to study people with MS and their family members. They have developed a Genetic and Environmental Risk Score for MS. This score combines information from a person's medical history and genes. It also includes environmental factors that may be related to developing MS. This study will test this risk score to see if it can help predict who will develop MS.


- To evaluate a score for genetic and environmental risk factors that may help predict whether a person will develop MS.


  • Individuals at least 18 years of age who have MS.
  • Individuals between 18 to 50 years of age who are the parent, brother, sister, or child of a person with MS.


  • People with MS will allow researchers to look at their personal and medical data. These data will have been collected in other MS-related studies.
  • Relatives of people with MS will fill out a questionnaire and give blood and saliva samples. They will fill out the questionnaire again one year later.
  • Some relatives will have additional optional testing. These tests will include a physical exam and imaging studies. There may also be other tests. These tests may be repeated every 1 to 5 years for 20 years.

Multiple Sclerosis

Study Type: Observational
Study Design: Time Perspective: Other
Official Title: Integrating Genetic and Environmental Risk Scores Into an Algorithm to Predict Multiple Sclerosis Susceptibility

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • The primary outcome is diagnosis of MS according to the 2010 revisions to the McDonald criteria.

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Secondary outcome measures include development of MS-like abnormalities on brain imaging studies, abnormalities on laboratory testing, and clinical symptoms and signs.

Estimated Enrollment: 2080
Study Start Date: April 27, 2012
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Detailed Description:

Objective. The overall objective of this study is to investigate the genetic, immune, and neuroimaging profiles that may increase a person s risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) in order to identify and validate predictive biomarkers in populations at risk for this disorder.

Study population. There will be three study populations:

  1. Individuals at risk for developing MS As part of the Genes and Environment in Multiple Sclerosis (GEMS) study, we plan to recruit up to 1000 first-degree relatives of MS patients. GEMS is a study of 5000 individuals that is being led by our collaborators at the Brigham & Women s Hospital and Harvard University. For the purposes of this study, a first-degree relative may be a parent, sibling, or child between 18 and 50 years of age but must not carry a diagnosis of MS. The first-degree relative must have the ability to provide consent and be willing to participate in the study. Two potentially overlapping subsets of these individuals will undergo detailed testing at the NIH:

    1. The cross-sectional subcohort will consist of 100 participants with combined genetic and environmental risk scores (GERS), defined in the protocol, in the highest and lowest 20 percent of the entire study population. Selected participants may be invited for follow-up studies based on data obtained at baseline if symptoms develop.
    2. The NINDS longitudinal subcohort will consist of up to 100 participants, ages 18 to 40,who express willingness to be followed for 20 years at the NIH, whose GERS falls in the top 20 percent of the entire study population, and who have a first-degree relative with MS who is participating.
  2. MS patients We plan to recruit up to 1000 MS patients whose first-degree relatives are enrolled this study. These participants either: (A) will be evaluated under other Neuroimmunology Branch protocols and will not undergo separate evaluation under this protocol; or (B) will send us medical records confirming their MS diagnosis via mail/fax/secure email, without the requirement to participate in another NIH protocol. The purpose of including this cohort in the current study is to allow access to their clinical, biological, and imaging data for comparison with first-degree relatives, if available, and to confirm that existing GEMS participants have a first-degree relative diagnosed with MS.
  3. Healthy volunteers We plan to recruit up to 80 healthy volunteers, ages 18-50, who do not have a known first-degree relative with MS. The purpose of including this cohort in the current study is to allow quantification of the degree and extent of abnormalities, including abnormalities of the blood-brain barrier, in individuals at risk for developing MS. Without imaging data obtained from healthy volunteers, there is no way to determine whether subtle clinical and neuroimaging findings in the at-risk cohort are truly abnormal, or to correctly threshold and quantify the observed abnormalities.

Design. This is a prospective cohort natural-history study. All GEMS participants will complete the following study procedures, which can be performed offsite: informed consent; study questionnaire; saliva sample; and blood draw. The questionnaire will be repeated 1 year after enrollment.

There will two additional substudies conducted at NIH: a cross-sectional substudy and a longitudinal substudy. Participants in these substudies will be evaluated with clinical, radiological, and laboratory procedures. Participants in the cross-sectional cohort will undergo evaluation at the NIH at a single time point (with optional longitudinal follow up), whereas participants in the longitudinal cohort will undergo evaluation at the NIH for 20 years. There will be an interim analysis 5 years after the 50th participant is recruited to the longitudinal cohort, and the study of this cohort will be terminated if we have not observed the development of MS-related radiological or laboratory abnormalities in any of the participants. Participants with MS will provide informed consent to allow access to their own research data, but the data themselves will be (or will have already been) collected under other Neuroimmunology Branch clinical protocols.

NIH will be a unique site within the overall GEMS study, for the following reasons: (1) It will be the only site at which imaging will be performed, as part of the cross-sectional and longitudinal substudies; (2) GEMS participants seen at NIH may undergo additional procedures that are not part of the overall GEMS study; (3) The NIH substudy has a prospective design with built-in long-term follow-up on the longitudinal cohort, whereas the overall GEMS study has only one year of planned follow-up; (4) Data from participants in the NIH substudy will be directly linked to data from their own relatives with MS.

Outcome measures. For participants in the overall GEMS study, the primary outcome measure is the GERS itself, as most participants in this cohort will not undergo further testing. For participants in the cross-sectional cohort, which consists of individuals at highest and lowest risk for MS, the primary outcome measure is the presence or absence of lesions on T2-weighted brain MRI that meet the 2010 MRI criteria for dissemination in space a finding that, in this population, is likely to be related to MS. For participants in the longitudinal cohort, the study endpoint is a clinical diagnosis of MS according to the same 2010 criteria. Secondary outcome measures include: (1) The age at which participants develop MS-related abnormalities on brain imaging studies, abnormalities on laboratory testing, and clinical symptoms and signs; (2) The time lag between defined exposures (for example, infectious mononucleosis) and the appearance of MS-related radiological, laboratory, and clinical abnormalities; and (3) The time lag between the appearance of asymptomatic radiological and laboratory abnormalities and the onset of clinical symptoms.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 50 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

GEMS cohort (target n equals 1000)

  • First-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) of a self-reported MS patient.
  • Age 18-50, inclusive, at the time of enrollment into the overall GEMS study.
  • Willingness to be contacted regarding additional follow-up procedures.
  • Cross-sectional subcohort (target n equal 100):

    • Referred by Harvard as having a genetic and environmental risk score (GERS), defined in Section 4.1.1, in the top or bottom 20% of the overall GEMS study.
  • NINDS Longitudinal subcohort (target n equal 100):

    • Ages 18-40, inclusive.
    • Referred by Harvard as having a GERS in the top 20% of the overall GEMS study.
    • Willing to undergo additional study procedures at the NIH for 20 years, with planned follow-up every year for participants between ages 18 and 25, every 2 years for participants between ages 26 and 30, and every 5 years for participants between ages 31 and 40.
    • Relative enrolled in NIH study with confirmation of MS diagnosis.

MS patient cohort (target n=1000):

  • MS patients (NIH)

    • Co-enrolled in another Neuroimmunology Branch natural history protocol.
    • Diagnosis confirmed at NIH.
    • Age 18 or older.
  • MS patient (non-NIH)

    • First-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) of an existing GEMS participant.
    • Able and willing to send medical records associated with their MS diagnosis to NIH.
  • Healthy volunteer cohort (target n=80)

    • Age 18-50, inclusive.
    • No known first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with MS.
  • All cohorts

    • Able to give informed consent.


GEMS cohort

-Diagnosis of MS.

Cross-sectional and NINDS longitudinal subcohorts

  • Contraindications to MRI scanning.
  • Diagnosis of another central nervous system disease disease (CNS neoplasm, known cerebrovascular disease, known CNS degenerative diseases, or known CNS inflammatory diseases) at the time enrollment into the study.
  • MS cohort (both)

  • Healthy volunteer cohort

    • Diagnosis of MS or another central nervous system (CNS neoplasm, cerebrovascular disease CNS degenerative diseases, or CNS inflammatory diseases) or a systemic disease that would interfere with the aims of this study.
    • Contraindications to MRI scanning.
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT01617395

Contact: Rosalind Hayden, R.N. (301) 827-9002
Contact: Daniel S Reich, M.D. (301) 496-1801

United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike Recruiting
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Contact: For more information at the NIH Clinical Center contact Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office (PRPL)    800-411-1222 ext TTY8664111010   
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Principal Investigator: Daniel S Reich, M.D. National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
  More Information

Additional Information:
Responsible Party: National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) Identifier: NCT01617395     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 120122
Study First Received: June 8, 2012
Last Updated: April 20, 2017

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Multiple Sclerosis
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Multiple Sclerosis
Disease Susceptibility
Pathologic Processes
Demyelinating Autoimmune Diseases, CNS
Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System
Nervous System Diseases
Demyelinating Diseases
Autoimmune Diseases
Immune System Diseases
Disease Attributes processed this record on June 23, 2017