In this health video learn how a new gene could help researchers find the key to treating MS.
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Jennifer Matthews: Janik's son is his pride and joy, but this dad isn't as carefree as most. Janik Pawlik: I can't do the things like other fathers may do, like I don't give him piggybacks. Jennifer Matthews: Janik has MS. His immune system attacks his nervous system and makes simple things like walking difficult. Janik Pawlik: It changes how you perceive yourself and what things you think you can have. You get scared of living and scared of dying at the same time. Jennifer Matthews: MS affects 300,000 Americans. Researchers have spent decades trying to figure out what causes it. Dr. Jonathan Haines: We've all been very frustrated by how slow a process it's been. Jennifer Matthews: Now, for the first time in 30 years, they've identified a new gene that's involved in MS. It's called IL7R. Having a variation of the gene increases a person's risk of MS by 30%. Dr. Jonathan Haines: It's very exciting to us to actually make this breakthrough. Jennifer Matthews: Here's how they did it. Researchers took blood samples from thousands of patients with and without MS. Robots separated out the DNA and made hundreds of copies of it. Computer software helped researchers determine which groups had which genes. Dr. Jonathan Haines: What it does is open up a whole new avenue for research to try to identify new targets. Jennifer Matthews: Patients could be tested for the gene and put on treatments earlier. Also therapies could be designed to target the genetic defect. Janik is excited about the research. Janik Pawlik: It may not benefit me ever but maybe my son or the next generation. Jennifer Matthews: Making the future a little brighter for everyone. This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.