High-resolution real-time images show in mice how nerves may be damaged during the earliest stages of multiple sclerosis. The results suggest that the critical step happens when fibrinogen, a blood-clotting protein, leaks into the central nervous system and activates immune cells called microglia.
Microglia (green cells) cluster around leaking blood vessels days before neurological damage occurs in a mouse model of MS.
Credit: Courtesy of Akassoglou lab, Gladstone Institute
"We have shown that fibrinogen is the trigger," said Katerina Akassoglou, Ph.D., an associate investigator at the Gladstone Institute for Neurological Disease and professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, and senior author of the paper published online in Nature Communications.
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is thought to be an autoimmune disease in which cells that normally protect the body against infections attack nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, often leading to problems with vision, muscle strength, balance and coordination, thinking and memory. Typically during MS, the immune cells destroy myelin, a protective sheath surrounding nerves, and eventually leading to nerve damage. The immune attack also causes leaks in the blood-brain barrier, which normally separates the brain from potentially harmful substances in the blood.
"Dr. Akassoglou has focused on the role of the blood-brain barrier leak in MS and has discovered that leakage of the blood clotting protein fibrinogen can trigger brain inflammation," said Ursula Utz, Ph.D., M.B.A., a program director at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
Microglia are cells traditionally thought to control immunity in the nervous system. Previous studies suggested that leakage of fibrinogen activates microglia. In this study, Dr. Akassoglou and her colleagues used a cutting-edge imaging technique called two-photon laser scanning microscopy to watch what happens in an animal model of MS.
"Our results provide the first evidence linking leakage of fibrinogen to neuronal damage," said Dr. Akassoglou, "Vascular changes are the instigator of neurotoxicity."
Using a mouse model of MS, the researchers found that leakage of fibrinogen and microglial activation occurred days before nerve damage began, suggesting they occur in an early, pre-clinical stage of the disease.
During this period, microglia changed shapes and clustered around blood vessels along with other immune cells. Further experiments suggested that fibrinogen activated microglia by binding to a receptor, called CD11b/CD18, which caused the microglia to release reactive oxygen molecules that, in turn, damaged neurons. Inhibiting the binding of fibrinogen to the receptor prevented microglial activation and nerve damage.
Current treatments for MS are designed to suppress autoimmunity. The results from this study suggest that targeting the interaction between fibrinogen and microglia may be an effective alternative. In the mice, blocking fibrinogen's blood clotting activity prevented microglial activation and nerve damage.
"Current drugs target primarily downstream events. This interaction could be an upstream target that suppresses immunity and neurodegeneration," said Dr. Akassoglou.
In 2006, Dr. Akassoglou received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, which honors and supports the finest and most promising researchers early in their careers.
This study was supported by NINDS (NS051470, NS052189, NS066361); the National Cancer Institute (CA082103); the National Center for Research Resources (RR004050), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (HL096126), the American Heart Association, the Bechtel Foundation, the Dana Program in Brain and Immuno-imaging, the H. Lundbeck A/S, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Nancy Davis Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis, and the March of Dimes.
Reference: Davalos et al., "Fibrinogen-induced perivascular microglial clustering is required for the development of axonal damage in neuroinflammation." Nature Communications, published online November 27, 2012. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2230
NINDS is the nation's leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The NINDS mission is to reduce the burden of neurological disease – a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.
Christopher Thomas | EurekAlert!
Using DNA origami to build nanodevices of the future
31.08.2015 | Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences at Kyoto University
An ounce of prevention: Research advances on 'scourge' of transplant wards
28.08.2015 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from University of Arizona geoscientists. The study is the first to explain how the steep-fronted plateau formed.
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from...
The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.
Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...
Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.
"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
02.09.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
02.09.2015 | Life Sciences
02.09.2015 | Awards Funding