How Ancient DNA reveals reason for high multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s rates in Europe


Multiple sclerosis (MS) and Alzheimer’s disease are two prevalent neurological disorders affecting millions of people worldwide. Europe, in particular, has been observed to have higher rates of these diseases compared to other regions. Recent advancements in ancient DNA analysis have shed light on the possible reasons behind this phenomenon.

Ancient DNA Analysis

Ancient DNA analysis involves extracting and sequencing DNA from ancient human remains. By studying the genetic material of individuals who lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago, researchers can gain insights into the genetic factors that contribute to the prevalence of certain diseases.

In the case of MS and Alzheimer’s, ancient DNA analysis has revealed specific genetic variations that were more common in European populations throughout history. These genetic variants are associated with an increased susceptibility to these diseases.

Migration Patterns

Europe has a complex history of migration and population movements. Ancient DNA studies have shown that certain genetic variants associated with MS and Alzheimer’s were introduced to the European gene pool during ancient migrations.

For example, the HLA-DRB1*15:01 allele, which is strongly associated with MS, was found to have been introduced to Europe around 6,000 years ago by migrants from the Eurasian steppe. Similarly, the APOE4 allele, a major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s, has been present in European populations for thousands of years.

Environmental Factors

While genetic factors play a significant role in the development of MS and Alzheimer’s, environmental factors also contribute to the higher rates observed in Europe. The interaction between specific genetic variants and environmental triggers is believed to be responsible for the increased susceptibility.

For instance, studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency, which is more common in regions with less sunlight exposure, can exacerbate the risk of developing MS. Europe’s northern latitude and limited sunlight during certain seasons may contribute to the higher prevalence of MS in these regions.


Ancient DNA analysis has provided valuable insights into the reasons behind the high rates of multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s in Europe. Genetic variations introduced through ancient migrations, combined with environmental factors, contribute to the increased susceptibility observed in European populations.

Understanding the genetic and environmental factors involved in these diseases is crucial for developing effective prevention and treatment strategies. Further research in this field will continue to unravel the complex interplay between genetics and the environment, ultimately leading to improved healthcare outcomes for individuals affected by MS and Alzheimer’s.