Recent evidence strongly suggests that blood particles known as ‘platelets’ may play a significant role in neuroinflammation. Platelets are very small cells that normally circulate in the blood and play a critical role in blood clotting. Recent research suggests that they may also have a pivotal role in inflammation, including neuroinflammation. There is clear evidence that platelets can be found in MS lesions and studies using the animal model for MS, known as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), have shown that when the number of platelets in the circulation is lowered, disease severity is significantly reduced.
Investigations that Dr Peter and his team conducted in their laboratory of brain and spinal cord in EAE are in agreement with these findings and also demonstrated that platelet involvement begins early in disease development. In this project the team will confirm and extend these results by establishing the timing and the functional nature of the interaction between platelets and inflammatory cells in the EAE model. They will also develop imaging methods to assist in the early mapping of MS lesions using novel techniques for tracing platelets. This innovative involves a unique collaboration of three scientists, combining experience in the mouse EAE model, expertise in platelet biology and in imaging.
Professor Peter and his team, using an animal model of MS, identified that there is an increase in the number of platelets (a particular type of blood cell) before the onset of disease and that the increase in platelets is correlated with disease development. They showed that platelets accumulate in the brain before some of the other immune cells in the MS disease process, signifying that platelet accumulation maybe one of the earlier events in the development of MS. This means that platelets may be a useful diagnostic marker, because they could be detected in the brain before any MS symptoms become apparent. Additionally, platelets might be a good target for MS therapies, in part because there is already a number of medications already approved for use in humans which alter the function of platelets.
This group has also been working on an imaging technology that allows the detection of platelets. Using Positron Emission Tomography (PET)-based imaging technology they have successfully developed a method by which they can trace platelets in the brain allowing the detection of MS lesions very early on in MS in the animal models, even before the exhibition of any symptoms.
Ultimately, this project is successfully working towards the development of a sensitive, accurate and easy method to track the progression of MS, particularly in the early stages when there are no clinical signs. This research should also lay the groundwork for ways to repurpose current platelet medications to impede the development of MS.
Updated: 7 September 2016
Updated: 06 January, 2015