PhD student in Veterinary Medicine
Université de Montréal
Jorge Iva Alvarez
Postdoctoral fellow in Microbiology and Immunology
Université de Montréal, CHUM Research Centre
Award-winning publication: The Hedgehog Pathway Promotes Blood-Brain Barrier Integrity and CNS Immune Quiescence
Published in: Science, 23 December 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6063 pp. 1727-1731
"The blood-brain barrier in mammals is constituted of tightly bound endothelial cells whose functions are maintained by several essential elements secreted by astrocytes. We discovered that in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, the astrocytes surrounding the endothelial cells are a source of hedgehog protein, which plays an important role in ensuring the blood-brain barrier seal and controlling immune response."
Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. This chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system is characterized by the inability of the blood-brain barrier to control the influx of immune cells into the brain. The study conducted by Aurore Dodelet-Devillers and Jorge Ivan Alvarez paves the way for the development of new therapeutic approaches to stop the migration of immune cells to the brain. The results also show that the hedgehog signalling pathway is key to regulating immune response in the brain and possibly in other organs. The work will certainly impact the treatment of multiple sclerosis and potentially of other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.