Newswise — LOS ANGELES – The Keck School of Medicine of USC is actively recruiting Hispanics with multiple sclerosis (MS) to participate in a study examining the impact of genetics, acculturation and cultural perceptions on disease severity.

“Very little is known about MS within the Hispanic population, and less than one percent of MS studies address minorities,” says neurologist and lead investigator Lilyana Amezcua, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurology at the Keck School. “There are large gaps in knowledge that we want to address with this study.”

Hispanics are the second-largest group affected by MS, behind whites, according to Amezcua. The actual number of minorities in the United States with MS is unknown, she says.

The multicenter study, which is being funded by a grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, will be recruiting 400 Hispanics who have been diagnosed with MS within the last two years. Other study sites in the trial include the University of Miami, University of New Mexico and Caribbean Neurological Center in Puerto Rico. Participants will be followed for two years.

As part of the study, participants will take validated questionnaires about acculturation and illness perception. Some participants will also watch a short film about MS.

"Studies have shown that Hispanics in the United States who are less acculturated tend to have greater health complications and are less likely to seek medical care in general,” Amezcua says. “By asking questions about the extent of acculturation, we can begin to better understand how sociocultural factors influence the degree and severity of MS symptoms in Hispanics.”

Participants will also provide a genetic sample that will be analyzed for ancestry. The researchers will assess whether Asian, Native American, European or African genetic markers influence disease severity.

“One of the study’s goals is to determine whether Hispanics with a higher proportion of Native American and/or African genetic ancestry have more severe MS than Hispanics with a higher proportion of European ancestry,” Amezcua says.

People who are interested in being a part of this study can call Andrea Martinez, MPH, lead project specialist at (323) 442-6817 or email [email protected].

Editor’s note: A Spanish-language version of this press release is available upon request.



Founded in 1885, the Keck School of Medicine of USC is among the nation’s leaders in innovative patient care, scientific discovery, education, and community service. It is part of Keck Medicine of USC, the University of Southern California's medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area. This includes the Keck Medical Center of USC, composed of the Keck Hospital of USC and the USC Norris Cancer Hospital. The two world-class, USC-owned hospitals are staffed by more than 500 physicians who are faculty at the Keck School. The school today has approximately 1,650 full-time faculty members and voluntary faculty of more than 2,400 physicians. These faculty direct the education of approximately 800 medical students and 1,000 students pursuing graduate and post-graduate degrees. The school trains more than 900 resident physicians in more than 50 specialty or subspecialty programs and is the largest educator of physicians practicing in Southern California. Together, the school's faculty and residents serve more than 1.5 million patients each year at Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital, as well as USC-affiliated hospitals Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center. Keck School faculty also conduct research and teach at several research centers and institutes, including the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine at USC, the USC Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute, the USC Roski Eye Institute and the USC Institute of Urology.

In 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked Keck School of Medicine among the Top 35 medical schools in the country.

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