Professor Schwartz’s research is focused on the role of innate and adaptive immunity in central nervous system (CNS) plasticity in health and disease, and on developing methodologies to manipulate the immune system to benefit the CNS under acute injuries, chronic neurodegenerative conditions, mental dysfunction, and brain aging.
Her team established the pivotal role of the systemic immune system in healthy brain function and repair. Specifically, the team demonstrated that both monocytes and T cells are needed for repair of injured CNS tissues (Nature Medicine, 1998; Nature Medicine. 1999; PLOS Medicine, 2009). She coined the concept of “protective autoimmunity”, to describe the physiological immune response that protects the brain, and further demonstrated that T cells are needed for healthy brain functional plasticity (Nature Neuroscience, 2006). Subsequently, her team identified the brain’s choroid plexus epithelium, which forms the blood-CSF-barrier, as a physiologically active immunological interface between the brain and the circulation, and as an entry gate for leukocytes, needed for brain homeostasis and repair (Immunity, 2013; Brain 2013). Based on these discoveries, they showed that brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases are associated with dysfunction of this interface (Science, 2014; J. Neuroscience, 2015; Nature communication, 2015), and that unleashing the immune system can combat Alzheimer’s disease (Nature Communications, 2015; Nature Medicine, 2016; Science, 2017; Cell, 2017; J. Ex. Med, 2018). This discovery, has created the ground to develop Immunotherapy for Alzheimer’s disease, which is currently under expedited translation to the bedside. In parallel, intensive studies at the cellular, molecular, behavioral, and immunogenomic levels are aimed at understanding how aging of the immune system affects brain aging, and whether and how the diseased brain leads to the exhaustion of the immune system.