In MS, immune cells attack the brain and strip the insulation (myelin) away from nerve cells. While we know a lot of how disease progresses from this point, we know very little about what causes MS to start and why the immune cells specifically attack the brain and spinal cord. A tight barrier exists between the blood and the brain called the blood-brain-barrier, or BBB. The BBB acts to keep infections as well as immune cells out of the brain. So what directs the immune cells to push through the BBB in MS?
A number of studies have shown that smoking or being overweight can increase a person's chance of developing MS, and both smoking and obesity are bad for the heart and blood vessels. This project will explore the possibility that a loss of function or loss of key cells at the BBB leading it to become leaky can result in damage to myelin inside the brain and contribute to MS initiation. In particular, Associate Professor Sutherland will examine the interaction between two cell types known as pericytes (cells found in blood vessels) and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (found inside the brain) and explore what role these cells in combination have at the very start of MS.
Updated 20 January 2021
Updated: 19 January, 2021