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Tr-BBB project

Laatste wijziging: 24 januari 2022

Interaction between regulatory T-cells and the blood-brain barrier


Principal Investigator: prof. dr. Niels Hellings, Researcher: dr. Bieke Broux


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the brain and spinal cord. Currently, more than 2 million people have the disease and woman have 50% more chance to develop MS than man. The average age of onset of the disease is around  30 years, so MS is typically a disease of young adults. The symptoms of MS include visual problems, muscle weakness, fatigue and even emotional and cognitive disorders. In the central nerve system, under normal conditions, the blood-brain barrier (BBB) prevents the infiltration of immune cells. This however, is not the case in MS and immune cells, especially T-cells, penetrate the brain and damage important brain cells. This results in the disruption of the signal transduction between nerves, causing the symptoms of MS patients.


The T-cells that invade the brain in MS patients are aimed at body’s own tissue. In healthy persons these cells are controlled by regulatory T-cells (Tregs). At the moment, it is not clear how Tregs interact with the BBB and if the can migrate towards the brain and become harmful themselves. In this project, the differences in migration capacity between Tregs from healthy persons and MS patients will be studied. Furthermore, changes in Tregs and BBB-cells after interaction with each other will be identified. This research will result in new fundamental knowledge on the interaction between Tregs and BBB in MS, and will contribute in identifying new mechanisms and therapeutic possibilities.