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Recruitment underway for study exploring impact of culture and genetics on Hispanics with MS

A study at the Keck School of Medicine of USC focuses on an understudied group of patients to shed light on a little-understood disease

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, associate 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, is 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. They will also answer an environmental survey and questions related to ancestry. All 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 and genetic predispositions 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

About the Keck School of Medicine of USC
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 ofUSC, the University of Southern California's medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area. This includes Keck Medical Center of USC, composed of Keck Hospital of USC and 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 has more than 1,750 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 postgraduate 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 Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine at USC, USC Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute, USC Institute of Urology, USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, USCRoski Eye Institute and Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute.

In 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Keck School among the top 35 medical schools in the country.

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SOURCE Keck School of Medicine of USC

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