Environmental, modifiable risk factors for multiple sclerosis
As other complex disorders, MS is most probably caused by interaction of genetic factors--largely elucidated--and environmental factors that are now better investigated and recognized, thanks to a great deal of research performed in this field over the past two decades.
In recent years, formidable biochemical, bio-informatic, technological and epidemiological tools have been involved to move on research into the causes of MS. In our view, the MS landscape has been irreversibly transformed by this progress.
Are we now in a time when we can speak of reducing the risk of MS by removing some risk factors, modifying subject lifestyle, working at potential preventive strategies? Are we able to mitigate the severity of the disease course-- not only with appropriate therapies-- by also modifying some of these factors? A few identified factors, in fact, may act not only as risk factors that increase the susceptibility to the disease, but, at the same time, as factors that influence the disease course and prognosis.
During the workshop, we will review current scientific knowledge in the area, coming from epidemiological studies, clinical trials and basic research. Moreover, we will address potential biological mechanisms underlying the association between MS and these factors. Then, we will discuss whether –at the present stage—from the body of available knowledge, there are any implications for improving patient counselling and management.
Lastly, and most importantly, “where are we headed”? The workshop will help identify the most important perceived gaps in knowledge and avenues for future research in this field. Improving our understanding of the environmental factors involved in MS risk and prognosis can in fact lead to new and more-effective approaches to prevention and management of this disease.