Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Funded Research

Elucidating the role and regulation of astrocytes in multiple sclerosis

Year Awarded: 2017

Term: 3 years

Funding Amount: $314,777

Affiliation(s): University of Calgary

Province(s): Quebec

Researcher(s): Dr. Shalina Ousman

Research Priorities: Cause of MS

Impact Goal(s): Understand and Halt Disease Progression


  • High levels of the protein Cystatin C is found in the brains of individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) and early research has shown that increasing Cystatin C is detrimental in animal models of MS.
  • How Cystatin C emits is negative effects in MS is unknown.
  • The research team will:
    • Examine if the effects produced by Cystatin C in MS is due to their function on house-keeping cells of the brain, called astrocytes.

Project Description:

A protein known as Cystatin C is elevated in the brain of people with MS but its function remains unknown. Dr. Shalina Ousman and her research team discovered that Cystatin C is expressed in the house-keeping cells of the brain, called astrocytes and its production is increased in mouse models of MS-like disease playing a detrimental role in the disease. Dr. Ousman’s current research aims to determine if Cystatin C has a negative impact in MS by modulating astrocyte activity and if this in turn is altering the immune response seen in MS. Overall, the research team is trying to understand the role of astrocytes, a still poorly understood cell type in MS, during the disease and how their functions are regulated. Furthermore, they will be attempting to answer what high levels of Cystatin C in individuals with MS patients means. Is the molecule playing a detrimental role and if it is, will it make the disease better if we prevent its increase or block its activity?

Potential Impact: This research will provide a better understanding of the pathophysiology of the MS disease and to the factors involved in triggering MS.

Project Status: In Progress

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