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The University of Southampton

Lay Summaries of studies supported by BRAIN UK by category: Demyelination

BRAIN UK Ref: 11/001
Role of neutrophils in the pathogenesis of neuromyelitis optica
Mr M C Papadopoulos, St. George’s University of London 

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO, Devic’s disease) is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder of the central nervous system which results in the loss of the conducting sheath of nerve fibres located preferentially in the optic nerve and spinal cord resulting in weakness, paralysis and loss of sensation (including blindness). NMO is related to multiple sclerosis (MS) which tends to affect the brain preferentially. NMO is associated with circulating autoimmune antibodies which bind to a particular molecule (aquaporin-4, AQP4) present on the surface of astrocytes which are diagnostic of NMO. The researcher’s team has developed an animal model of NMO by introducing these autoimmune antibodies into mouse brain and have discovered that inflammatory tissue damage is mediated by a particular type of cell called a neutrophil that is a normal constituent of the immune system. A molecule called neutrophil elastase can be detected in tissue using specific staining procedures and is specific for neutrophils and this study aims to test the hypothesis that tissue damage in NMO (but not MS) is mediated by neutrophils in support of data from previous mouse studies.

Project Status: Closed

BRAIN UK Ref: 16/010
Selective vulnerability in MND/FTD
Dr O. Ansorge, University of Oxford 

Motor neuron disease (MND) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that destroys motor neurons, the cells that carry the signal for muscle movement such as speaking, walking, breathing, and swallowing. There are different types of motor neurons which can be grouped depending on whether they are carrying signals around the brain and spine (upper motor neurons) or from the spine to the muscles (lower motor neurons). They can be further grouped depending on whether they are signalling fast acting or quickly fatiguing movements. Certain groups of neurons are affected differently during the course of motor neuron disease. The most significant degeneration (decline) of neurons in MND occurs within the spinal cord, however there is also moderate loss of upper motor neurons in the brain and spine.

We are particularly interested in upper motor neuron vulnerability. To investigate this, we will look for proteins that characterise neuron subtypes in conjunction with proteins that charcterise the disease effects, to identify whether particular neurons are more likely to collect disease-related proteins.

Project Status: Closed

Research Outputs: Presentation, Poster

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