Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Funded Research

MicroRNA-mediated Regulation of Inflammasome Activity in Multiple Sclerosis

Year Awarded: 2019

Term: 3 years

Funding Amount: $323,870

Affiliation(s): Memorial University of Newfoundland

Province(s): Newfoundland and Labrador

Researcher(s): Dr. Craig Moore

Research Priorities: Repair/Remyelination

Impact Goal(s): Understand and Halt Disease Progression

Summary: There is a need to find new and effective drugs that will stop MS disease progression. Recent research has implicated a protein structure called the ‘inflammasome’, a group of proteins that assemble within the brains of MS patients and significantly contributes to both inflammation and cell death. This research aims to determine the detailed mechanisms by which the inflammasome contributes to MS disease progression and whether inflammasome activity can be halted to allow for brain repair. 

Project Description: While several drugs have been approved for treating relapsing-remitting MS, these medications have not been proven effective in treating progressive forms of the disease. This may in large part be due to the targets of these drugs, which have entirely focused on the immune cells (primarily within blood circulation). There is a need to identify novel cellular mechanisms and drug targets beyond the immune system that focus more on ‘fixing’ the brain itself. This research will explore the ‘inflammasome’ and how its activation can be reversed in cells to permit a favourable environment whereby the brain can repair lesions. This group has identified specific molecules called microRNAs in the human brain that may represent a new target for therapy in MS. These microRNAs are found in both immune cells and brain cells and play an important role in controlling inflammation and tissue repair in the damaged brain. Recent research has demonstrated that microRNAs can alter the degree of inflammation and inflammasome activation in both immune and brain cells. Using human brain cells to model the inflamed environment and animal models of MS, this study will test how new drugs can safely and effectively limit inflammasome activation while also promoting repair in the brain and spinal cord.

Potential Impact: This research will help understand how specific cells in the brain contribute to injury and repair. Identification of drugs that can affect inflammasome activation and repair could be used to treat both relapsing and progressive forms of MS. 

Project Status: In progress

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