The focus of the Neuroimmunological Diseases group is on understanding how the immune system contributes to tissue injury and repair in diseases of the nervous system and how these features can be translated into therapy. This program involves two primary laboratories that utilize human tissue samples to investigate the molecular properties of constituents of the immune system, adaptive and innate (microglia, macrophages)) and central nervous system (astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, neurons) that underlie their interactions under physiologic and disease conditions. The studies involve specialized tissue culture and protein/molecular analytic techniques adapted to accommodate the limited neural cell numbers available and to allow focus on rare immune cell populations. In vitro results are correlated with observations made in situ using human pathologic tissues (with visiting scientist Samuel Ludwin). Through close collaborations, comparative studies are conducted with animal models of tissue repair including oligodendrocyte progenitor cell (OPC) mediated re-myelination (Tim Kennedy) and neuronal survival and function (Alyson Fournier).
The neuro-immunology program links with The Neuro-based clinical and clinical research multiple sclerosis program (Giacomini, Lapierre, Antel, Arnold, Trojan) and with the Experimental Therapeutics Program (ETP) that has developed the cutting-edge technology, operational procedures, bio-repository and bio-informatics to lead multi-site studies defining the immune status of specialized populations including children with MS or those receiving investigational therapies, the latter including coordination with The Neuro’s Clinical Research Unit (CRU) (Dr. Angela Genge, Director). The principles underlying neuro-immune interactions are applicable to analysis of mechanisms underlying tissue injury in “degenerative disorders” (ALS, Alzheimer’s disease) and to defining bi-directional effects of immune cells with malignant glial cells (with Kevin Petrecca). Josephine Nalbantoglu directs a program on delivering potential brain tumour therapeutic agents via viral vectors recognizing specialized receptors on such cells.
Primary Group Members