The role of epidemiology in MS research: Past successes, current challenges and future potential
Simpson JR, S and Taylor, BV and van der Mei, I, The role of epidemiology in MS research: Past successes, current challenges and future potential, Multiple Sclerosis Journal, 21, (8) pp. 969-977. ISSN 1352-4585 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a multifaceted condition, with a range of environmental, behavioural and genetic factors implicated in its aetiology and clinical course. Successes in advancing our appreciation of the roles of Epstein-Barr virus, vitamin D/UV and the HLA-DRB1 locus; and our greater understanding of these and related factors modes of action in MS and other conditions, can be attributed in no small part to the work of generations of epidemiologists. Hardly content to rest on our laurels, however, there are yet a range of unsolved conundrums in MS, including some changes in epidemiological characteristics (e.g. increasing incidence and sex ratio), to say nothing of the unresolved parts regarding what underlies MS risk and its clinical course. There is evidence that epidemiology will continue to play a crucial role in unravelling the architecture of MS causation and clinical course. While classic epidemiological methods are ongoing, novel avenues for research include gene-environment interaction studies, the world of '-omic research, and the utilisation of mobile and social media tools to both access and track study populations, which means that the epidemiological discoveries of the past century may be but a glimpse of our understanding in the next few decades.