Role of socioeconomic position in multiple sclerosis etiology

Written by Farren B S Briggs, Matthew C Green & Miranda L Ritterman Weintraub

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating autoimmune disease with a prominent inflammatory component. There have been strides identifying genetic and environmental MS risk factors, though much of the disease risk remains unknown. Recent large observational studies suggest adverse socioeconomic position increases the risk for MS, however the mediating biological processes are not understood. We hypothesize a prominent role for stress response, both the autonomic nervous system and the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, which become maladaptive under frequent or chronic stimulation resulting in a proinflammatory phenotype. Thus, adverse SEP and chronic stress may predispose individuals for MS.

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