This is not overly helpful information for MS patients, but its still good news:
Previous research has indicated that there are endogenous retroviruses that are disregulated and leading to detectable production of ERV proteins in MS patients. They found the bugger involved– an ERV they named HERV-Fc1. We do not know whether this protein is causing MS, or just a side-effect we might (might not) be able to capitalize on for diagnostic purposes, or whether its a bit of both.
But with all of this previous research on ERVs and MS, we all missed a huge elephant in the room– Contrary to what Creationists like to say, ERVs are junk DNA. They are junk, and thats a good thing. Of the many reasons we are glad that 8% of your genome arent active, replication competent retroviruses is that retroviruses cause cancer.
If MS patients have HERV-Fc1 bopping around, its possible that there are other ERVs disregulated. Even if infectious viruses arent being made, some ERVs might be making mRNA that gets turned into reverse transcriptase and integrase, that can turn other ERV mRNA into DNA and pop it back into the genome. There could be all kinds of genetic instability goin on. Genetic instability, insertional mutagenesis, its just a fancy way of saying CANCER.
One way to look for this is to count the number of ERVs per cell. This isnt exactly practical, so these folks looked for increased copies of HERV-Fc1 in MS patients. If wayward ERV expression is leading to genomic instability, there would be more-than-expected numbers of HERV-Fc1 in MS samples. And, they would find copies of HERV-Fc1 in unexpected locations– not only in the germline, ‘normal’ location.
Well, there are not more copies of HERV-Fc1 in the cells of MS patients vs healthy controls. Just the normal 2:1 ratio between men and women (HERV-Fc1 is found on the X chromosome).
This doesnt directly help MS patients at all, but its still good news– The relationship between ERVs and MS is still murky, but at least the ERVs probably arent also causing cancer in MS patients. Yaaaaaaay…