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Affiliation(s): Centre de Recherche du CHUM
Nathalie Arbour obtained her Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Pierre Talbot (INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier). She completed a postdoctoral training in the team of Dr. Michael B.A. Oldstone (Scripps Research Institute, California) and finally in the group of Dr. Jack Antel (Montreal Neurological Institute). Dr Arbour was recruited at the CHUM and Université de Montreal in 2006. Her research program investigates the interaction between the immune system and the central nervous system (CNS), especially the roles of T lymphocytes in the context of multiple sclerosis (MS). Her main goal is to identify and characterize molecular and cellular mechanisms that participate in neuroinflammatory processes as potential novel therapeutic targets. Her investigations address numerous relevant and complementary areas, including cytokines, activating receptors, and T lymphocyte biology. Her research strategy is first to identify molecules and mechanisms that are specifically altered in human samples obtained from patients. Then, Dr Arbour and her team investigate the mechanistic impact of such factors using primary cultures of immune and CNS cells. These cells are as close as we can get to the in vivo human situation. Finally, using the most relevant animal models, Dr. Arbour’s team confirms and dissects the role played by these identified mechanisms in the pathogenesis of MS and test in vivo strategies to correct these altered factors and thus validate them as bona fide therapeutic targets. Her team has built a very strong and unique expertise in analyzing human and mouse immune and neural cells using numerous complementary approaches such as flow cytometry, cell biology, molecular biology, and microscopy.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
Multiple sclerosis is a very complex disease involving two extremely fascinating systems: the central nervous system and the immune system. I became interested in MS research when I realized that so many patients are suffering from this neuroinflammatory disease, especially in Canada.
What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?
I am very proud of the quality of training we have been able to provide to members (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) of my team. These young scientists are important contributors to research. Unfortunately, biomedical research in Canada has not been sufficiently supported by our governments. Therefore, we spend a significant amount of time writing grants to obtain financial support. This time cannot be spent on creating new data.
Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?
Our team investigates how immune cells from MS patients behave differently than those obtained from healthy age/sex matched donors. The collaboration between the research laboratories and the MS clinic is essential for the success of our project. Neurologists and nurses play an essential role in our project; they contribute to provide samples from well-characterized MS patients. Moreover, we benefit from the expertise of colleagues for specific cutting-edge techniques.
How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?
The support from the MS Society of Canada grant is essential to our team to conduct our research project focused on MS pathogenesis. This support will pay for lab reagents, a technician salary, and high quality technical services to successfully investigate the role of our molecule of interest specifically in samples from MS patients.
If you could ask one question to a person living with MS that would help you design your study, what would it be?
What are the factors (infections, stress, etc) you associated with relapses or with remission in your disease