Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a common inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. MS has a prominent neurodegenerative component that is most visible in the progressive phase of the disease. The causes of neurodegeneration in MS are poorly understood and are currently not treatable. Our research goal is to better understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of MS-related neurodegeneration and to translate these insights into therapeutic options.
We are currently studying the impact of genetic MS risk variants that were identified in genome wide association studies, on innate CNS inflammation and neurodegeneration using induced pluripotent stem cell-derived astrocytes, neurons and microglia.
In addition, we are exploring the impact of chronically activated microglia on tissue injury in MS. For this we are studying autoptic MS tissue and iPSC-derived microglia and perform MS patient imaging with a novel MRI method that detects activated, iron-containing microglia. Below are imaging mass cytometry (IMC) images of an acutely demyelinating MS lesion. This method combines immunohistochemistry with mass spectroscopy and allows simultaneous detection of 40 targets with metal-tagged antibodies. We use IMC to determine the relative spatial distribution of markers related to microglial/macrophage activation.