Integrative Biology of Neuroregeneration

Acceuil 2015


We investigate molecular mechanisms that underlie neurodegeneration processes in the context of spinal cord pathologies. We are particularly interested in spinal cord injury (SCI), a pathology with no current therapy.

One means of analyzing the molecular substrate of degeneration is to identify in each cell type of the spinal cord, changes induced in gene expression levels. In this line, we are developing a genomic integrative analysis to decipher the specific involvement of different cell populations as well as cell-cell interactions in mechanisms and pathogenesis of SCI and other spinal cord pathologies. Using this approach will allow the identification of cell specific candidate genes that may be involved in the mechanisms and pathogenesis of spinal cord diseases.

We have a specific interest in glial cells (such as astrocytes and microglia), the most abundant cells in the mammalian central nervous system. Yet our knowledge about their function in health and disease has been limited but during the last years, more and more evidence show that they are playing a crucial role in several spinal cord and brain pathologies.

 

Spinal cord injury (SCI)

SCI has currently no therapies leading to even partial recovery, the absence of functional recovery and the lack of spontaneous axonal regeneration is attributed, among other factors, to the formation of the glial scar, mainly composed of astrocytes and microglia that forms both physical and chemical barriers. However, we also know that glial cells may play a beneficial role on neuronal survival and axonal regrowth in a traumatic context.

We seek to identify in glial cells which potentially favorable and unfavorable genes are expressed in neurons after traumatism of the spinal cord. Then, in order to promote regeneration, we will use molecular tools to increase the expression of favorable genes and decrease that of those unfavorable to the regrowth of axons.

In parallel, to develop tools for monitoring the evolution of the spinal cord after lesion, we are using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Indeed MRI allows following the same animal over time. Moreover, it is the only technique that is used to monitor spinal cord injured patients. Furthermore we perform a parallel monitoring of the motor activity of our animals and we study the formation of the glial scar at a cellular level.