Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Funded Research

Deciphering the Influence of Epstein-Barr Virus in Multiple Sclerosis

Year Awarded: 2019

Term: 3 years

Funding Amount: $405,300

Affiliation(s): University of British Columbia

Province(s): British Columbia

Researcher(s): Dr. Marc Horwitz

Impact Goal(s): Prevent MS, Understand and Halt Disease Progression

Summary: The goal of the research is to better understand the role of Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) in the development and progression of MS. EBV is a common virus that infects people in childhood or early adulthood and remains quiet (causes a latent EBV infection) in our immune system.

Project Description: This project analyzes the molecular and cellular changes that occur following EBV infection to increase the susceptibility and progression of MS. This study will examine the effect of EBV on the immune system, specifically on a type of immune cells called B cells. Prior work demonstrated that EBV infection enhanced MS-like disease in animal models. In this study, Dr. Marc Horwitz and team will use mice generated to have human-like immune systems to analyze the increased level of disease induced by the virus and determine the changes within the immune system, specifically, in B cell populations. This research will test the hypothesis that in order to accommodate the presence of a persistent, latent (or quiet) EBV infection, the immune system sustains profound molecular and cellular changes that alter its ability to respond to ordinary events, which can prompt immune-mediated diseases such as MS. 

Potential Impact: In people with MS, EBV is found more frequently, found in greater numbers and many treatments serve to reduce the quantity of EBV and EBV-infected cells. A better understanding of EBV and its effect on MS has the potential to develop prevention strategies and better-targeted therapies, as well as identify novel therapeutic pathways and biomarkers of MS.

Project Status: In progress

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