Using cellular imaging, researchers will examine how immune destruction of central nervous system (CNS) cells is initiated in the animal model of autoimmune Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Immune system functioning is dependent on the spatial and temporal distribution of its individual cells. The capacity to image individual immune cells within their environment, therefore, may reveal how CNS tissue is attacked by errant immune T cells in the animal model of MS, called “EAE” (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis). The investigators developed a method for applying two-photon laser scanning microscopy to directly visualize dynamic immune cell migration and interaction within various tissues in live, anesthetized animals. Now they will apply this technique to image the interaction between cells of the immune system and the CNS that result in destruction of the myelin sheath that insulates brain cell axons (the communication cables).
They hypothesize that certain immune “antigen presenting cells” (APCs) surrounding blood vessels in the brain may teach immune CD4+ T cells to recognize myelin as foreign, attract these T cells and other immune cells into the brain, and activate them to attack myelin. The research team will determine what signals are used to selectively attract and retain CD4+ T cells into the brain, how these T cells cross the blood-brain-barrier, and how their destructive activity is sustained.
Significance: If the research can clarify the cellular and molecular interactions that lead immune cells to destroy myelin in the animal model of autoimmune MS, the findings may lead to new treatments based on methods for interrupting this process.