Targeting Programs of Gene Expression to Enhance Neuroprotection
Year Awarded: 2020
Term: 3 years
Funding Amount: $375,000
Affiliation(s): McGill University
Researcher(s): Dr. Alyson Fournier
Background: Many of the current treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) modulate the immune system and are generally ineffective at treating progressive forms of the disease. Nerve cell degeneration and death in the brain and spinal cord underlie progressive forms of the disease and disability in MS, including cognitive dysfunction. Strategies that protect nerve cell viability and growth and promote their repair will be important elements in targeting progressive forms of the disease.
Overview: A family of molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs) are powerful regulators of gene expression that affect nerve cell viability and growth. miRNA molecules simultaneously affect the expression of multiple proteins. Some miRNAs have been shown to protect neurons from harmful effects of inflammation in animal models that have MS-like disease. Dr. Alyson Fournier will explore the expression of miRNAs in nerve cells in response to inflammation and will study the role of miRNA in nerve cell viability. This research aims to understand and identify a full spectrum of miRNAs that can mediate neuroprotection and then validate therapeutic strategies to promote nerve cell protection and repair in the context of MS.
Impact: miRNA and miRNA-dependent processes represents a viable approach for promoting nerve cell protection and repair in multiple sclerosis. Ultimately, this work has the potential to identify novel therapeutic targets to treat progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.