We are keen to translate our work on rodents to generate treatments that benefit humans. To this end, we are further investigating how our discovery that TRP channels generate a deleterious calcium influx into oligodendrocytes (Hamilton et al., 2016) can be employed to reduce white matter damage in multiple sclerosis, stroke and spinal cord injury. In addition, as outlined above, pericytes are a therapeutic target in stroke, and we have already discovered a drug which prevents them constricting capillaries and dying in ischaemia.
As an important step towards ensuring that discoveries made in rodent tissue are relevant to human therapy, we have started to study pericytes in living slices of human brain. The tissue is obtained when it is necessary clinically to remove a small piece of normal brain tissue in order to access an underlying brain cancer. Normally this removed tissue would be discarded but, with informed consent from the patients who generously donate the tissue, ethical approval, and the generous help of the neurosurgeon Huma Sethi who carries out the operations, we are able to take the tissue and study it in the lab. The results obtained to date show that, like rodent pericytes, human capillary pericytes constrict in response to noradrenaline and dilate in response to glutamate (Nortley et al., unpublished). Currently we are investigating the response of the human pericytes to ischaemia.