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GMSI Award 2015 – Role of microglia in the pathogenesis of progressive multiple sclerosis

Laura Airas


This lecture was given at the Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation Awards Event, 8th October 2015. The GMSI award was supported by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Dr. Airas is an award winner and works at the University of Turku, Finland.

In her speech, the award winner Dr. Airas, said that it had been very difficult to find treatments for progressive multiple sclerosis. One reason was that the pathology changes as the disease progresses. In progressive MS, the inflammation was contained within the nervous system. Conventional disease modifying treatments were not so helpful in progressive disease, as these mainly worked on the peripheral immune system. 

Dr. Airas proposed the following pathological model for progressive multiple sclerosis: There was an initial insult that leads to neurodegeneration. This led to over-representation of the M1 cells and these produced pro-inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress, which harmed more neurons. This was a vicious circle that perhaps could be stopped by targeting the M1 microglia. 

According to Dr. Airas, the first aim of the project was to demonstrate by specific PET imaging that the transition from relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis was related to microglial activation from M1 to M2. The second aim was to find a pharmacological approach to prevent or reverse this, possibly by purinergic receptor activation. These would then repair debris and allow remyelination. Possible compounds would be screened in the EAE animal model.

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