June 27, 2014

Researchers reveal a dual-protective role of the Hedgehog pathway

A research team from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) provide further understanding of the method by which the blood brain barrier (BBB) works to avert attacks of the immune system on the brain. These findings which have been published in the prestigious journal Science offer new therapeutic approaches to control immune cell migration to the CNS. [Published online December 1, 2011. Science.]

The BBB is a physical and metabolic barrier that regulates what can enter or not enter the CNS. Drs. Prat and Alvarez have demonstrated the types of cells that form part of the BBB called endothelial cells and perivascular astrocytes play a key role in the proper function of the BBB.

The team discovered that astrocytes play a key role in secreting a protein called Sonic hedgehog, and that endothelial cells express Hedgehog receptors, which collectively promote proper formation and stability of the BBB during embryonic development and adulthood.

The team have also discovered that this ‘Hedgehog pathway’ appears to have an important role in decreasing immune cell adhesion and migration into the brain thereby providing a protective barrier and anti-inflammatory balance to CNS immune attacks.

These findings offer promising therapeutic approaches to control immune cell migration to the CNS.

This work was supported by the MS Society of Canada and the Canadian Institute of Health Research.