MRI and NMR of myelin: towards non-invasive ways to detect neuronal diseases?

Speaker: Professor Erick Dufourc, CNRS & University of Bordeaux


Myelin is a lipid and protein lamellar membrane structure that tightly wraps the axon in a concentric fashion. It functions as an electrical insulator to transport electricity (nerve impulses) along the axon in nervous systems. In many neurodegenerative diseases, myelin loses its tight cochlear structure primarily held together by two proteins, myelin basic protein (MBP) and proteolipid protein (PLP), resulting in a detachment mechanism that will release membranes from the axon. Although great progress has been made in brain imaging, it is still very difficult to specifically probe myelin membranes and their changes in dynamics.

The seminar will present recent advances in this field, both from the perspective of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Special techniques will be presented to attempt to image myelin in the brain and to determine which membrane motions are responsible for image contrast and detection of myelin dysfunction at the molecular level.

Speaker profile:

Erick Dufourc graduated in physical chemistry from the University of Bordeaux, France, in 1980, and obtained a PhD in biophysics from the University of Ottawa/National Research Council, Canada, in 1983. He joined the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France) in 1983 and obtained a state doctorate (DSc) in Physical Sciences from the University of Bordeaux, France, in 1986, working on solid-state NMR of lipids and peptides. After a sabbatical in Stuttgart (Humbolt Foundation laureate), Germany, where he worked on the theory of membrane dynamics, he returned to Bordeaux and obtained a position as director of research at CNRS and a chair at the University of Bordeaux, to develop NMR of soft matter. In 1998, he was one of the founders of the European Institute of Chemistry and Biology (IECB) where he led the "Biophysics of Membrane Assemblies" group and developed a unique platform of NMR spectrometers to work on the structural biology of membranes. In 2006, he created and directed for 11 years the Institute of Chemistry and Biology of Membranes and Nanoobjects (CBMN), an interdisciplinary institute gathering 200 chemists, physicists and biologists in Bordeaux. At the same time, he has also developed with other French scientists the TGIR RMN THC (France Large scale infrastructure of high field NMR spectrometers). The Bordeaux site is dedicated to NMR for "membrane and colloid sciences". He has been president of several scientific societies (EBSA, GERM, GEM, SFC Aquitaine, etc.) and served for 8 years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the framework of bilateral scientific relations between France and India and France and Pakistan. In 2017, he was appointed Deputy Scientific Director of the Institute of Chemistry at the CNRS headquarters in Paris, in charge of chemical biology and molecular and supramolecular chemistry in France.

He became Emeritus Research Director of the CNRS in 2021 and is currently developing his activity at CBMN/IECB in Bordeaux.

His team is currently developing three lines of research in structural biophysics: i) membrane lipids, ii) membrane peptides and proteins and iii) colloids for health and nutrition.

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