Antoine Louveau, Ph.D., a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center of Brain Immunology and Glia, in the Neuroscience department of the University of Virginia, VA, under the supervision of Dr. Jonathan Kipnis, is a LE&RN Research Fellowship Award recipient. We asked Dr. Louveau to tell us about his research.
What is the focus of your research?
My research focuses on the role of the Central Nervous System (CNS) lymphatic system in brain function in both physiological and pathological conditions. Until recently, the brain was thought to be among the few organs of the body to be devoid of a dedicated and functional lymphatic system and this was proposed to be a central reason for the immune privilege status of the brain. This discovery changes the game and we are now focusing on understanding how this lymphatic system works in the CNS and how it might be dysfunctional in neurological disorders, notably during Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease.
What do you hope to learn from this research and what impacts will it have on the current body of knowledge?
I hope that this research will help us gain a better understanding of brain physiology. The question on how the brain drains and how antigens are exiting the CNS remains unclear. Similarly, we know that the brain is under constant immune surveillance that is important for the maintenance of brain function but the path for immune cells trafficking is still a matter of debate. In the periphery, the lymphatic system plays a major role on both of those functions, we then hope to understand how those systems are working in the CNS.
Ultimately, we hope to understand how dysfunction of the meningeal lymphatic system might initiate or participate in the development of neurological disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). AD is characterized by the accumulation of misfolded protein in the brain parenchyma that causes memory loss. Understanding how the CNS lymphatic system participates in the removal of molecular waste from the brain might help us understand why and how proteins are accumulating in the brain.
What clinical implications might grow out of this research?
We still have a long way to go but we are hoping that the meningeal lymphatic vasculature might be a new therapeutic target that will be more accessible than the brain parenchyma to offer new treatments for neurological disorders.
What might the field accomplish in the next few years?
I think that the lymphatic field has initiated its shift from working with the system as a whole and has started considering specific function that tissue lymphatics have to ensure the maintenance of those tissues. I believe that such approach is going to enrich our understanding of the lymphatic vasculature, reveal important tissue specific function that the lymphatic system ensures and provide new targeted therapies to treat disorders of the lymphatic system like lymphedema but also emphasize the implication of the lymphatic system in numerous other disorders.