Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Funded Research

Immune cell-microbiome interactions and neuroinflammation

Year Awarded: 2016

Term: 3 years

Funding Amount: $365,500

Affiliation(s): University of Toronto

Province(s): Ontario

Researcher(s): Dr. Jennifer Gommerman

Hot Topics: Gut Microbiome

Research Priorities: Cause of MS

Impact Goal(s): Understand and Halt Disease Progression


  • One type of immune cell, call the B cell, can have either anti- or pro-inflammatory properties. The function of the B cell is also thought to be influenced by microbes in the gut microbiome.
  • B cells function is believed to be compromised in multiple sclerosis (MS) and how the gut microbiome influences the function of B cells is still unknown. The research team will:
    • Determine how gut microbes influence MS in animal models of MS. Determine how the microbiome influences B cell function in animal models of MS.
    • Determine how microbes in the gut influence the Central Nervous System environment.

Project Description:

The immune system has the ability to "put the brakes" on inflammatory responses when required. In MS, for reasons that are not understood, this breaking mechanism is impaired. The proposed research from Dr. Jennifer Gommerman’s group seeks to broaden the understanding of immune regulation by focusing on a specific immune cell type called B cells. Preliminary data suggests that some B cells have an anti-inflammatory function and that B cells, in general, are influenced by microbes that live in the intestines (gut microbiome). The researcher hypotheses that when B cell function is compromised in MS, disease processes will be exacerbated due to the impact of the microbiome on these dysfunctional B cells. Thus, the aims of the proposed research are to determine how gut microbes influence MS in mice, determine how the microbiome influences B cell function in mice with MS-like disease, and determine how microbes in the gut influence the brain and spinal cord. The team has already discovered that the gut microbes have a role in dictating disease severity in mice with an MS-like disease by regulating B cell function. Surprisingly, they also discovered that this is particularly true of male mice. This research will delineate how B cells function in MS to establish better drugs that target B cells to treat MS.

Potential Impact: Identity what types of B cells and their associated function should be preserved or targeted to treat MS effectively.

Project Status: In Progress

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