Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Funded Research

Deciphering Astrocyte - T cell interactions in Multiple Sclerosis

Year Awarded: 2019

Term: 3 years

Funding Amount: $316,905

Affiliation(s): University of Calgary

Province(s): Alberta

Researcher(s): Dr. Hedwich Kuipers

Hot Topics: Progressive MS

Impact Goal(s): Understand and Halt Disease Progression

Summary: This research aims to understand astrocytes, a type of cell found in the brain named for their star-like appearance and investigates their conribution to MS disease processes and progression. Astrocytes are the most abundant cell types in the central nervous system (CNS) and are known to respond to damage in MS in various ways. While astrocytes interact with immune cells that enter the CNS in MS, this study will investigate how they might be playing an active role in the disease process.

Project Description: There is increasing evidence that astrocytes, play a role in the development and progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). Astrocytes are one of the first components that immune cells encounter upon entry into the CNS. This research will test the hypothesis that astrocyte-immune cell interactions shape a local inflammatory response, and that astrocytes are an integral component of MS pathology and development. Using both an animal model of MS, as well as brain tissue from people with MS, this study will determine which type of activated astrocyte is present at different stages in the development of MS lesions. Using cell cultures of astrocytes and immune cells, they will build an understanding of how these different types of astrocytes shape the function of immune cells and whether this affects the disease process leading to damage of nerve fibers. This group has previously found that a component of the meshwork that sits around and in between cells, hyaluronan (also referred to as hyaluronic acid, or HA), can be made by astrocytes and contributes in the activation of immune cells. This study will determine whether the activated astrocytes in MS lesions produce more hyaluronan and whether targeting the production of hyaluronan (by astrocytes) with an existing, well-tolerated, drug named Hymecromone is a viable option in the treatment of MS.

Potential Impact: By gaining a better understanding of the activated states of astrocytes throughout the development of MS and how these specific states influence immune cell responses in MS, this research has the potential to identify new opportunities to modulate the interactions between these cells in order to halt MS progression. This research has the potential to identify new therapeutic strategies to stop MS in its tracks.

Project Status: In progress

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