Has anyone read Simon Jenkins’ article in The Guardian today about the death this week of the IVF pioneer Bob Jenkins? He talks about screening of embryos for “hereditary conditions such as multiple sclerosis”. Have I missed something here? Thought MS was not hereditary as such, more of a familial tendency. How would they screen for it anyway, has he just made a big mistake?

Haven’t read the article, but even without doing so, yep, I think it’s shoddy research - or more like no research at all.

Genetics is strongly implicated in MS, with a few dozen genes already identified as risk factors. But even somebody with ALL the risky genes would not necessarily be guaranteed to go on to get MS. So they might reject an embryo that would NEVER go on to get it.

Controversial stuff in itself. MS is pretty bad, but is it honestly better for most of us that we hadn’t been born? Hmmm. I wouldn’t go THAT far.


My MS Nurse is carrying out a genetic study of the disease and she said that there is a 1% chance of passing on the disease. She said is was a very small percentage when compared with other diseases.

Shazzie xx

I’m not going to get into a debate about the veracity of Jenkins’ statement,but I imagine the drug companies would have some heated meetings about the possible eradication of an £8 billion a year condition.


Not an answer to your question, but I took this information from MS Trust.

Risk of MS in the family

MS is not hereditary as it is not passed on in a predictable way like some conditions. However, genes do play a part in susceptibility to MS but environmental factors are also involved. This study combined the results of 18 previous studies to get a better estimate of the risk of MS in family members.

In families where one member was already diagnosed with MS, the risk was highest for more closely related members.

Lifetime risk of MS by relationship to someone with MS:

  • Identical twin - 1 in 6
  • Non-identical twin - 1 in 22
  • Other brothers or sisters - 1 in 37
  • Parent - 1 in 67
  • Child - 1 in 48
  • Relatives that were less closely related had a lower risk.

The research team calculated that genes contributed just over half (54%) of the risk factors. The remainder would probably be due to environmental factors.

has anything been written on what the “environmental factors” are? i am really worried about my children getting it as my dad and 2 aunts have it - plus a great aunt (all on the same side of the family). i so don’t want them to end up with this.

vicky x


has anything been written on what the “environmental factors” are? i am really worried about my children getting it as my dad and 2 aunts have it - plus a great aunt (all on the same side of the family). i so don’t want them to end up with this.

vicky x

[/quote] Epstein Barr virus, vitamin D and smoking. Nothing you can do about the first, you can take/give supplements for the second and you can warn about the third and hope they listen. We’re probably only playing around the edges mind you, but you never know… Karen x

thanks karen, that’s twice you’ve come to my rescue! :slight_smile: i bow down to your greater knowledge :slight_smile:


Just to go back to the original post

Simon Jenkins is an idiot who is always extremely poor on anything to do with science or maths. A lot of people have no idea what MS is - I once had a ski rep (trying to get donations to get disabled children onto the slopes) tell me “we have children with MS, you should see their little faces as they go down”. But having said that, it is easier to see that a ski rep would be ignorant, Simon Jenkins should check his facts before he submits his articles.

Very sloppy journalism. I have read the article online and agree with one of the comments which suggest that it probably meant to say Muscular Dystrophy which has a well established genetic cause which can be tested for.

As others here have said , although there is some evidence of genetics being one of the factors there is definitely no genetic test which can be made.

Just so you know, following a communication from Jenna Litchfield, our Senior Press Officer, The Guardian has amended the online article and will run a correction in tomorrow’s paper and online. Ms Litchfield wrote:

"Hopefully you can help with an inaccuracy we’ve seen in a comment piece.

Simon Jenkins article about test tube pioneers, published on Comment is Free on Friday, implies MS is inherited and can that be screened for – this is not the case and I wondered if the piece could be corrected?

In his article Simon wrote:

When I joined the fertilisation authority, pre-implantation screening (and elimination) of faulty embryos was permitted for just a handful of inherited conditions, such as haemophilia and multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis is not inherited. Children with a parent with MS are estimated to have a two per cent risk of getting MS, but the real cause of MS is likely to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There’s no one gene that indicates someone will get MS, and we’re yet to identify all of the genes that might play a part in the likelihood of a person developing the condition.

Simon also suggests MS can be screened for in embryos, which is not the case."

I’ll keep you posted of any further developments on this issue.

Stewart (admin)

Going back to Karen’s comment (rizzo) - they are doing trials on the Epstein Barr virus and ms at the moment with a drug called rituximab (not sure if I’ve spelt that right) has anyone been invited on to this trial or anyone heard of it?

Just had a look - The original article has now been edited to removed all mention of MS with a footnote to say it was amended. Thanks to MS society for getting onto the case here