Neuroimmunology Lab | Fondazione Santa Lucia

Neuroimmunology Lab

Areas of Investigation 

The Laboratory of Neuroimmunology examines the immune responses and mechanisms that contribute to the development of autoimmunity in the course of multiple sclerosis (MS). The approach involves the use of flow cytometry and cell biology for the analysis of biological material obtained directly from patients with MS. Thus far it has been possible to identify subpopulations of immune system cells altered both qualitatively and quantitatively in the course of this disease. By using these alterations as biomarkers that indicate the presence and the progression of the disease, the research aims to understand the development of MS and to obtain methods of diagnosis and prognosis ever earlier and to identify new therapeutic targets.

 

Multiple Sclerosis: Immunosuppression and Pathogenesis

The Laboratory is currently engaged in the study of the role of regulatory T Lymphocytes (Treg). Under physiological condition, Treg Lymphocytes modulate and suppress the activity of the cells responsible for implementing the immune response (effector cells). Moreover they control any self-reactive cells, which could attack and damage the host tissues. The Laboratory has identified a subpopulation of Treg Lymphocytes expressing CD39, a membrane protein present in much lower quantities than normal in patients with MS and that has a fundamental role in immunosuppression.

The research focuses also on the role of MAIT cells, a population of T-Lymphocytes involved to the control of immunological homeostasis with intestinal symbiotic microorganisms. It has been shown that MAIT cells increase in peripheral blood of patients with MS and this probably testifies to an altered composition of the intestinal bacterial flora.

Another area of interest of the Laboratory is the role of Epstein-Barr (EBV) in the etiology of MS. Recent studies strongly suggest that in individuals where the antiviral immune response is altered, EBV may contribute to the pathogenesis of MS. Investigations by the Laboratory of Neuroimmunology have also shown that the specific immune response against EBV fluctuates depending on the development of the disease.

The Laboratory has also identified a novel immunoregulatory role in MS for Th9 Lymphocytes, a population of T-Cells capable of secreting a protein (Interleukin 9, IL-9) which suppresses the production of the proinflammatory IL-17 protein. The presence of this protein is inversely correlated with inflammation characteristic of MS. The IL-9 seems to have a protective role in the progression of MS.

Acquired Patents 
  • Use of 3-(2-ethylphenyl)-S-methoxy-1H-1,2,4-triazole for the treatment of autoimmune diseases EP1501505 (A1), WO2818-101
  • Use of multiparametric flow cytometry for the diagnosis, prognosis and immunotherapy validation of autoimmune and oncohematologic disorders, No. 04 745 177.8 – 2404 (Pending)
Collaborations 
  • Centre for Neurological and Experimental Therapy, Sant'Andrea Hospital, Rome (Italy)
  • Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, National Institute of Health (ISS), Rome (Italy)
  • Department of Computational Biology, Edmund Mach Foundation, Trento (Italy)
  • Department of Medicine, University of Salerno (Italy)
  • Multiple Sclerosis Centre, Tor Vergata University Hospital, Rome (Italy)
  • Neurology Unit, San Camillo Hospital, Rome (Italy)
  • Viral Immunology Section, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda (United States)
Ongoing Research Projects 
  • Does gut flora influence autoimmune responses in Multiple Sclerosis? The MAIT cell story
  • Altered host-virus interaction as cause of multiple sclerosis: focus on Epstein-Barr virus and antiviral immune response
  • Linfociti T regolatori Foxp3+: Subsets differenti possono spiegare la mancanza di immunoregolazione nella Sclerosi Multipla?
  • Approfondimenti del ruolo protettivo dell'interleuchina-9 nella progressione della sclerosi multipla
  • Studio del network citochinico che regola la patogenesi mediata dalle cellule T helper 17 nella sclerosi multipla

Laboratory of Neuroimmunology

Fondazione Santa Lucia Irccs

Via del Fosso di Fiorano, 64 00143 Rome

European Centre for Brain Research (CERC) – Floor 1 – Rooms 107,109,110