Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Funded Research

Characterizing the anti-inflammatory and disease-modifying potential of novel a7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor silent agonist

Year Awarded: 2017

Term: 3 years

Funding Amount: $355,821

Province(s): New Brunswick

Researcher(s): Dr. Alain Simard

Affiliation: Université de Moncton


  • Nicotine protects against disease in the mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS) by acting on proteins found on immune cells and reducing the damage of pro-inflammatory cells.
  • However, the effects of smoking, which has many chemicals involved and aggravates MS, compared to nicotine alone have not been explored. Furthermore, there is a need to examine the effects of nicotine on the immune system alone without triggering effects of nicotine on the whole body.
  • The research team will:
    • Test new molecules, triggered by nicotine, that were recently created to target solely the immune system, thereby avoiding the side effects of less specific compounds found in smoking.

Project Description:

Nicotine has been shown to be protective against disease in mice that have MS-like disease. The beneficial effect of pure nicotine is not to be confused with smoking, which aggravates MS due to many other chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Nicotine acts on proteins found on immune cells, which results in reducing pro-inflammatory cells, but also found on neuronal cells. Dr. Alain Simard’s project plans to test new molecules that were recently created to recapitulate nicotine’s effect targeting exclusively immune cells, thereby avoiding the side effects of less specific compounds, such as nicotine. These molecules have very potent anti-inflammatory properties and may be promising disease-modifying drug candidates. The objective of the project is to understand if these novel molecules inhibit inflammation, and if they slow or stop disease progression.

Potential Impact: This research has the potential to lead to the development of novel therapeutics by targeting cellular pathways that exhibit the beneficial effects of nicotine.

Project Status: In Progress

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