Investigation of the mechanisms of the neurogenic immune depression after SCI
Funded in: 2014, 2015, 2016
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Problem: After spinal cord injury (SCI), the risk of infection worsening the neurological outcome is highly increased as the immune system is weakened.
Target: Investigation of the underlying molecular mechanisms to prevent the negative effects of infections on neurological recovery and changing immune cells with detrimental effects into nerve cells.
Goal: Addressing different neuro-immunological aspects of SCI might have great potential to treat SCI and improve neurological function
Spinal cord injury not only affects the motor and sensory system but also weakens the immune system. This highly increases the risk for infection for individuals with SCI. Unfortunately, there are many observations indicating that occurrence of infection leads to worse neurological outcome.
The project investigates the underlying molecular mechanisms behind this phenomenon. On the one hand, it might be possible to prevent the negative effects of infections on neurological recovery. On the other hand, once the mechanisms are known, it might be possible to employ them to improve recovery – even in the absence of infection.
A second part of the project aims to change certain types of immune cells into nerve cells. The background behind this project is the fact that many immune cells have detrimental effects within the injured spinal cord. Also, at the injury site nerve cells are damaged and need to be replaced, but the transplantation of nerve cells bears the inherent risk of rejection or even being carcinogenic. If certain immune cells can be changed into nerve cells, harmful cells will be removed while at the same time nerve cells at the center of the injury will be introduced. This approach has a very limited risk for rejection of the new cells, since they arise from the cells that are present at that very site.
Both parts of this project are aiming at different neuro-immunological aspects of SCI with a great potential in unravelling new chances to treat spinal cord injury and improve neurological function.