My type of "MS"

My MS type (NMO Spectrum Disorder) and the origins of Multiple Sclerosis and related diseases

My own MS was reviewed a couple of years ago by Professor George Ebers at Oxford - I appear to have an atypical form of MS, not usually found in people with a European origin - it is a form of optico-spinal MS or Devic's Disease Relapsing Remitting type.
Update 2009  A recently proposed classification, into which my condition fits well and which includes OSMS is:    Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

 My condition may, according to Professor Alastair Compston at Cambridge, be some sort of transitional type between modern European MS and an ancient precursor from times when Europe was being re-occupied by people coming from Anatolia through north eastern Europe and after the Ice Age!   Today, many of these so called Finno-Ugric peoples, like the Khanty, Mansi, Nganasans, Kets, Ostyaks, Voguls and Samoyed still live as nomads in certain parts of north eastern  Scandinavia and Siberia.  While most of Europe was occupied after the Ice Age from the Iberian peninsular in the south, a minority of us are descended from those nomadic people who came in to the northern parts of the British Isles usually via Scandinavia, either as Vikings, (or even, like "Cheddar Man" who had a U mitochondrial DNA haplogroup - long before the Viking era.)

My mtDNA Haplogroup U4 - known as "Ulrike" - maternal ancestors
I decided to check this out and have had my DNA analysed - and discovered that my maternal ancestry is indeed Finno-Ugric.  I have Mitochondroal (Mt) DNA Haplogroup U4, passed down from a mother to sons and daughters, but only passed on to the next generation down the female line.  This genetic Haplogroup originates from a women born about 18 thousand years ago in what is now North Eastern Europe, on the edge of Asia.

Professor Sykes of Oxford University has dubbed this woman "Ulrike" :

"The clan of Ulrike (German for Mistress of All) is not among the original “Seven Daughters of Eve” clans, but with just under 2% of Europeans among its members, it has a claim to being included among the numerically important clans. Ulrike lived about 18,000 years ago in the cold refuges of the Ukraine at the northern limits of human habitation. Though Ulrike's descendants are nowhere common, the clan is found today mainly in the east and north of Europe with particularly high concentrations in Scandinavia and the Baltic states."

Although this Haplogroup is not common in the UK, some people in the Orkneys and Western Norway have  it, so my maternal ancestors probably entered Britain from the north, possibly as Vikings.  Interestingly I have a strong family history of MS - all on my mother's side - a maternal aunt had MS, a maternal second cousin has MS and my maternal great-grandmother had a disabling disease, and used a stick as a young adult - and later is seen in photos using a bath chair - most likely MS.  I recently read an interesting letter by her written while she was a patient at the National Hospital for Neurological Diseases at Queen Square, London.

The Old Norse Y-DNA-R1a1 Modal Haplotype - My paternal ancestry
For good measure I had my Y chronosome DNA looked at also - only passed down only from father to son.  This too was interesting, because I have Haplogroup R1a1 (Genetic marker M17) - this is not common in the UK - it means my paternal origin is from the Indo-european people of the Eurasian Steppes - the first people to domesticate the horse.  My paternal ancestor was a man born on the Ukrainian/Russian Steppes 10 thousand years ago.  Most people with this Haplogroup in Europe now are Slavs in Russia, Poland and the Ukraine - but the people with the highest proportion of the Haplogroup in modern times are the etnnic Tajiks and the tribesmen of Kyrgyzstan (which borders China!) This Haplogroup is also common in Northern India and Eastern Iran - due to invasions by the Aryan people.  A large section of people in the Orkneys and Western Norway have this paternal Y chromosome DNA, and since my father's family are from Scotland it is likely that my paternal ancestors also entered Britain from the north - as Vikings.  This may also explain my light eyes, dark brown hair (when young!) and skin which tans quite brown.

UPDATE I have now put my Y DNA sequence into a database search - and discovered that not only do I have the Old Norse Haplogroup brought into Scotland by the Vikings, but that I am probably directly descended in the male line from SOMERLED.

Somerled, from the old Norse Sumarliði, was known by the Gaels as Somhairle Mor MacGhillebridhe.  He was  progenitor of the Chiefs of The MacDonald, Douglas and MacAllister Clans .   Although of Norse origin his family had settled in Scotland in an early Norse invasion about 700 or 800 AD.  He was  Lord of the Islay and a Highland Gaellic speaking warrior in the 12th century, who kept the Scotts King at bay and sent contemperory Norse invaders back to the Orkneys, Shetland and their Scandanavian homelands. His descendants were Lords of The Isles.

You can find out more about DNA analysis at The Genographic Project

Genetics is of particular interest to researchers, like Professor Alastair Compston at Cambridge, who are investigating the origins of MS and how the relatively common form of the disease developed in people of north European stock in the world today.

The good side of this for me is that my particular disorder has not progressed and I am relatively little disabled, still walking with a stick and having had no relapses for about 25 years - I have had this condition now for 45 years (since 1965) and the worst symptoms were in the first 15 years when I had several episodes of optic neuritis and difficulties with legs and bladder.  
Update 2009 - judging by recent rresearch I fulfil all the criteria for NMO Spectrum Disorder - which includes "Optico Spinal MS"

Alexander J Burnfield
Updated March 2009