Role of the Vascular Niche in Remyelination

Our research focuses on the understanding of myelin regeneration (remyelination) and its failure during multiple sclerosis (MS). We aim to reveal how oligodendrocyte progenitor cell function is regulated during remyelination and why this process is altered in MS. By addressing these questions, we intend to provide insights for the development of regenerative therapies for MS treatment.
Research projects

Myelin in the central nervous system (CNS) is produced by oligodendrocytes. In response to myelin damage, oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) activate, proliferate, and migrate towards the demyelinated area, and differentiate into remyelinating oligodendrocytes. Why does remyelination fail in multiple sclerosis (MS)? The vascular niche comprises different cell types from the vasculature as well as blood-resident elements. Overall, our research efforts aim to determine the contribution of the vascular niche to remyelination and/or its failure during demyelinating diseases, such as in MS. Currently, we are running the following projects:

Role of perivascular cells in remyelination

In the CNS, PDGFRb+ perivascular cells (PVCs) represent a heterogeneous population that includes pericytes, vascular smooth muscle cells and perivascular fibroblasts. CNS-resident PVCs play a role in vascular homeostasis and blood-brain barrier (BBB) stabilization. Do PVCs contribute to remyelination? We have previously shown that after focal demyelination, PDGFRb-expressing pericytes proliferate and secrete Laminin alpha2-chain (Lama2) favouring OPC differentiation during remyelination (see the article link below). This project arises as a follow-up from our previous studies and aims to determine the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which pericytes and other PVCs contribute to remyelination and, eventually, to its failure in MS. 

Contribution of circulating platelets to remyelination

Beyond their well-known blood clotting function, platelets participate in tissue repair. Our preliminary results indicate that, in response to CNS damage, circulating platelets infiltrate, accumulate, and promote survival in neural stem cells (see the article link below). Do circulating platelets play a role in myelin regeneration? This project aims to study whether and how circulating platelets regulate OPC function and remyelination. Also, here we aim to explore whether platelets abnormalities may be detrimental for myelin regeneration. 

Natural compounds - remyelinating molecules for MS treatment

This project is led by University Researcher, Maria Elena Silva, PhD. Plants growing in extreme weather locations have developed different adaptive mechanisms. These plants produce a series of compounds that allow them to survive extreme conditions. These compounds display special chemical properties, being, for example, potent antioxidants. Many of these properties represent a significative advantage for tissue regeneration. This project aims to identify natural compounds, obtained from plants that live in extreme locations, able to promote remyelination. The final goal is to develop a natural compound-based regenerative strategy for MS treatment.