Dr Madeleine Cunningham

Project Title: Developing a new mouse model to investigate the autoimmune paralytic nervous system disease Guillain-Barré syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune disease affecting the peripheral nerves, which connect the spinal cord to the rest of the body. In patients this results in paralysis, hospitalisation and in severe cases the muscles controlling breathing are affected. Recovery can be a long and arduous process spanning months to years. There are currently no targeted treatments for GBS based on identified mechanisms of disease; the current therapy was approved over 30 years ago and is non-specific. In order to test new treatments, animal models which reflect human disease are essential. Current mouse models are very limited in this respect due to the severity of the paralysis to respiratory muscles. As such, this only captures the disease at an early snapshot in time and prevents long-term study.

This project aims to develop a new model of GBS, which represents the human condition, while also reducing the distress for our mice. We aim to do this by improving the access of disease-causing agents to peripheral nerves in the leg – this access is usually prevented by a protective barrier formed by the nervous system. Current mouse models do not reflect this important site of patient injury, and instead affect the whole animal. However, we will restrict any nerve injury to this specific site, thus removing any injury to the muscles involved in breathing and allowing long-term study of injury and recovery.

The development of this model will allow us to investigate aspects of GBS which have not yet been studied, and allow us to test new treatments which specifically target the disease. GBS patients are in desperate need of better treatments, improving their likelihood and speed of recovery.

Awarded: Research Incentive Grant

Field: Anatomy, Physiology & Neurosciences

University: University of Glasgow

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