Gender has become a dominant factor in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) during the last decades. Already with a ratio of 3.2 to 1 MS is gradually changing into a disease predominantly among women. Since genetic factors can be ruled out as a cause of this gender related increase, scientific attention is on environmental factors that may increase MS risk in women exclusively. Most likely environmental factors include smoking, viral infections, Vitamin D deficiency, hygiene changes and dietary factors.

Almost 400 MS scientists and clinicians from around the world gathered this week during a medical scientific conference on 'Multiple Sclerosis and Gender', organized by the independent European Charcot Foundation, to share and discuss their scientific views on the backgrounds of this major shift in gender ratio.

"In due course the raised attention on gender related topics will undoubtedly lead to better results and questions regarding individualized MS treatment, both in women and men", professor O.R. Hommes, chairman of the European Charcot Foundation stated. "This conference has raised the simple question whether females with MS should be treated differently than males".

One of the main focal points in the gender related approach is the effect of pregnancy on disease progression in MS. The disease practically disappears during the last trimester of pregnancy. Why is that and can we use our vast knowledge of natural female sex hormones, such as estriol, progesterone and prolactin, to develop new ways of treating women with MS? Several phase III clinical trials are already underway that will provide answers to this question by the end of 2009.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory and degenerative disease of the central nervous system leading in time to severe disability. This chronic disease is affecting 70 to 200 per 100.000 persons in Europe.

European Charcot Foundation