Virus-induced neurologic diseases: Coronaviruses and multiple sclerosis in patients, neural cells and in an animal model of MS
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most widespread neurologic disease in young adults, with a frequency of as many as 1 in 500 to 1000, especially in high-risk areas such as Canada, the northern parts of the United States and of Europe. Disease etiology is not known but is suspected to involve both genetic susceptibility and environmental triggering factors, the latter most likely viruses. It is suspected that infection by one or several common pathogen(s) before adolescence triggers MS in genetically susceptible individuals, as manifested by autoimmune reactions against antigens of the myelin sheaths surrounding nerve fibers in the central nervous system. Among the several viral candidates for induction of MS are the coronaviruses, a family of common respiratory pathogens involved in as many as 30% of common colds.
Dr. Talbot's research team has detected the presence of these viruses in the brains of some MS patients but not controls, determined the infectability of neuronal and glial cells in continuous and primary cultures by human coronaviruses, and identified a striking human coronavirus-myelin cross-reactive T cell response in MS patients but not controls. Studies in progress deal with the characterization of the neurotropism of human coronaviruses and the possibility that they can trigger autoimmune pathology, perhaps through the molecular mimicry of myelin antigens and neurodegeneration.
Current research uses two parallel scientific approaches to understand how a respiratory virus may cause a neurologic disease like MS and others. On one hand, cell cultures from the central nervous systems, such as neurons are used to study the consequence of infection of these cells, notably the neurons which are the main target cells. On the other hand, an animal model, the mouse is used to characterize the molecular and cellular determinants of the interactiom of the virus with the immune and nervous system leading to neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration underlying neurological diseases, such as MS.
Dr. Pierre Talbot obtained his B.Sc. in Biochemistry (1977) from the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering of Laval University and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry (1981) from the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
After post-doctoral training in immunovirology with Drs. Michael Buchmeier and Michael Oldstone at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla (California), he joined (in 1984) the Armand-Frappier Institute as an NSERC University Research Fellow and then FRSQ Senior Scholar of Exceptional Merit until 1997.
Between 1998 and 2002, he was Director of the Human Health Research Centre of INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, and was Director of INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier between 2002 and 2007.
The research efforts of his team, funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), are aimed at an understanding of the interactions between a neurotropic virus and the immune and nervous systems that leads to the triggering of some neurologic diseases. The immediate target is the coronavirus as a possible etiological agent of multiple sclerosis.
Since 2003, Dr. Talbot holds a Tier I (senior) Canada Research Chair in NeuroImmunoVirology, and participates in the CIHR NeuroinflammationTraining Program
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