Selma Blair Says a 23andMe Test Might Have Revealed Her MS Years Ago
Selma Blair —now, the 46-year-old actress says that clues to her diagnosis may have shown up in a 23andMe test.
According to a super-detailed Instagram post Wednesday morning, Selma shared that she "ran [her] genetic mutations through @23andme," two years ago (the date on the test says it was generated on July 7, 2019).
Apparently, the test showed that she has the MTHFR genetic mutation on both sides of her family—as well as a few other mutations, she said. Selma then linked that back to her MS diagnosis: "#MTHFR shows a higher susceptibility to MS. Toxins build up more," she wrote. "Or more toxicity can build up blocking pathways which increase autoimmune disease."
Clearly, girl has been doing her research—and props to Selma for taking a very active role in her health and learning all she can about her diagnosis. But tbh, it's really hard to understand all of this stuff (so many acronyms!)
All right, so what does Selma mean when she says she has an MTHR genetic mutation?
Let's get technical for a sec. The MTHFR gene variant is also called the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase variant (try saying that three times fast), according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD). This gene tells the body how to create an enzyme that breaks down homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood.
Everyone has two copies of this gene. But some people, like Selma, have MTHFR gene variants—which is basically a mutation of the normal gene. Certain mutations can affect the body's ability to break down that amino acid, so people with MTHFR gene variants often have higher homocysteine levels in their blood, says Santosh Kesari, M.D., a neurologist and chair of the Department of Translational Neurosciences and Neurotherapeutics at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif.
Those increased levels of homocysteine increase the possibility of blood clots, says Kesari, and in pregnant women, can increase the risk of having a child with brain and spinal birth defects. But MTHFR gene variants have also been connected to autoimmune diseases like MS, he adds.
While it's not entirely clearwhythe MTHFR gene variant and elevated levels of homocysteine can increase risk of MS, previous studies—like one published in 2015 in the —found that MS patients do have "elevated levels of plasma and cerebrospinal fluid homocysteine."
But here's the thing:Kesari stresses that these are just associations—meaning a MTHFR gene variation doesn't necessarily cause MS."Just because you have the gene variant doesn't mean you absolutely have those problems, just an increased risk," he says.
That's because, along with the MTHFR gene variant, there are tons of other risk factors associated with multiple sclerosis, including a history of smoking, low vitamin D levels, and having some infections like measles and the Epstein-Barr virus, per the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. There are also approximately 200 other gene variants connected to the disease.
In her Instagram post, Selma also said that there are "possibilities to ease [her] symptoms"—and she might also be on to something there, says Kesari. Those with the MTHFR gene variant have also been shown to have low folate and vitamin B levels, he says. Supplementing diet with those, along with vitamin D (low levels of which is associated with MS, according to the National MS Society), may help some people manage the condition, Kesari says, though it's not proven and may not work in every patient.
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