MS results from the immune system attacking the myelin sheath that surround the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This sheath protects the nerve fibres and allows electrical signals to travel along the fibre efficiently and accurately.
Microvesicles are tiny particles that bud off cells that are circulating in the blood. They have been shown to interact with the immune system, and may be involved in the breakdown of the blood brain barrier, which is a crucial step in the development of MS. However, the role of these microparticles in MS is unknown.
Dr Ben Gu has already demonstrated that people with MS have a higher level of microvesicles in their blood than people without MS. This project aims to investigate what cells in the blood these microvesicles arise from. Understanding the role of microvesicles in MS may generate another way to attack this disease and provide new therapeutic options for MS.
Dr Gu and his team have adapted a new technology, to quantify the number and characterise the origin of the microvesicles in the blood of people with and without MS. They have used this technology to confirm their previous findings, showing that people with MS have more microvesicles than those without MS. This finding validates this method, which is important as it means that any new findings are likely to be accurate.
To complement this, his team have also developed a new method for separating the cells most likely to produce to microparticles from the rest of the blood, which will make the microparticles easier to characterise. Furthermore, they have been able to stimulate microparticle release from these cells, which will enable Dr Gu and his team to more fully understand the function of these microparticles.
Future plans include investigating what chemicals are contained within the microvesicles and determine if there are differences in people with and without MS. They also plan to determine how these microparticles can disrupt the blood brain barrier, which is essential for the development of MS.
This incubator grant also allowed Dr Gu to train a young researcher, Ms Joelyn Wong who completed her Honours thesis in Dr Gu’s laboratory.
This work in understanding the role of microvesicles in MS may generate another way to prevent attacks of and provide new therapeutic options for MS.
Updated: 4 July 2017
Updated: 03 January, 2016