Understanding the Role of Ependymal Cells in Multiple Sclerosis
Year Awarded: 2022
Term: 3 years
Funding Amount: $298,622
Affiliation(s): McGill University
Researcher(s): Dr. Jo Anne Stratton
Impact Goal(s): Understand and Halt Disease Progression
- Ependymal cells are important cells that line the fluid-filled spaces in the brain and regulate what flows in and out of the brain tissue. In MS, these cells may not be functioning well or are completely lost.
- As part of this research, Dr. Stratton and team will investigate how ependymal cells change in MS, how they interact with or are affected by factors associated with MS, and how complete loss of ependymal cells impact overall brain health.
- This work will provide a new understanding of how ependymal cells contribute to brain tissue damage that leads to MS disease progression.
Progressive disability is a critical challenge for people living with MS, and damage to brain tissue is often associated with disease progression, even early in the disease. A critical observation is that damage to the brain is more pronounced at 'surfaces' exposed to cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds the central nervous system and fills the cavities of the brain. This has been observed in children experiencing their first MS attack, suggesting that toxic factors from cerebrospinal fluid may drive disease pathology. Ependymal cells are important cells that line the fluid-filled spaces in the brain and acts as a key barrier between the cerebrospinal fluid and the underlying brain tissue. Their primary function is to regulate what flows in and out of the brain to maintain overall brain health. Several observations suggest ependymal cells may not be functioning very well, or are lost all together, in MS. How this occurs and how this affects MS disease progression is unknown. Dr. Stratton and team will investigate: 1) how ependymal cells change in human MS brains; 2) how ependymal cells directly interact with and are affected by factors found in MS; 3) how loss of ependymal cells in an animal model impacts normal brain health. This work will provide a new understanding of ependymal cells and how they may be affected by MS, as well as how they may contribute to MS disease.
Understanding how ependymal cells may contribute to brain tissue damage is crucial for identifying the mechanisms that drive progression in MS. This knowledge can be used to develop therapeutics that can prevent ependymal cell-driven damage to the brain.
Project Status: Ongoing