Veerle Somers, Hasselt University, Hasselt, Belgium

Spinal cord injury induced autoantibodies as biomarkers

Funded in: 2020, 2021, 2022


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Problem: Due to a disrupted blood-spinal cord barrier proteins are released into the blood and elicit an immune response that contribute to additional damage
Target: Characterise novel SCI-induced autoantibodies for their biomarker potential
Goal: Provide a better insight into the underlying pathogenesis of SCI

Recent findings revealed that antibodies are major detrimental players in spinal cord injury (SCI). During SCI, the blood-spinal cord barrier is disrupted, resulting in the release of central nervous system proteins into the blood. These proteins elicit an immune response involving the production of autoantibodies that contribute to additional damage. The presence of autoantibodies in the serum is often used in autoimmune diseases as a biomarker for diagnosis and prognosis. In SCI, current neurological scoring systems and imaging techniques are insufficient to predict disease progression and therapy response due to high patient heterogeneity. The goal of this project is to characterise novel SCI-induced autoantibodies for their biomarker potential in predicting a worse disease outcome and their pathogenic capacity.
Blood samples of SCI patients will be analysed for antibodies reactive against spinal cord proteins and their biomarker potential will be characterised by comparing the disease course, complications, inflammatory and neurodegenerative parameters of SCI patients that did or did not show antibody reactivity. The pathogenic relevance of these autoantibodies in SCI pathology is investigated by testing them in a pre-clinical SCO model.
Elucidating the role of these novel SCI-induced autoantibodies is crucial to provide a better insight into the underlying pathogenesis of SCI which is instrumental for the identification of novel therapeutic targets.