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Dr. Alain Simard


My research program aims to provide critical insights into how the body naturally controls inflammation, by using a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to study emerging neuro-immune crosstalk mechanisms. For instance, it is established that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) can regulate inflammation. However, little is known regarding the systemic, cellular, pharmacological, and molecular mechanisms involved in nAChR-dependent immune regulation. My current research focuses on identifying the mechanisms by which acetylcholine is used to communicate with nAChRs expressed by immune cells, thereby mediating their functions. Our current research focus is on:
1. Determining the roles of the various nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in immune regulation.
2. Investigating the physiological, pharmacological and molecular mechanisms by which nAChRs mediate immune function.
3. Identifying novel non-neuronal sources of ACh used for inter-cellular communication.


Dr. Simard is currently seeking graduate students. Students interested in working with Dr. Simard should email him with their CV, writing sample, and a summary briefly indicating the ways in which they believe their research interests align.


Relevant Publications

Godin, JR., Roy, P., Quadri, M., Bagdas, D., Toma, W., Narendrula-Kotha, R., Kistha, O.A., Damaj, M.I., Horenstein, N.A., Papke, R.L., Simard, A.R*. A silent agonist of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors modulates inflammation ex vivo and attenuates EAE.Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity. 2020, 87:286-300.

B. Han, C. Zhang, S. Liu, Y. Xia, H. Sun, Z. Gong, AR Simard, Q. Liu, J. Hao. Non-neuronal cholinergic activity is potentiated in myasthenia gravis. BMC Neurology. 2017, 17:28.

Jiang, W., St-Pierre, S., Roy, P., Morley, B. J., Hao, J., Simard, A. R. Infiltration of CCR2+Ly6Chigh Proinflammatory Monocytes and Neutrophils into the Central Nervous System are Modulated by Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors in a Model of Multiple Sclerosis. J.Immunol.2016, 196(5):2095-108.

Xu J, Gao C, Zhang F, Ma X, Peng X, Zhang R, Kong D, Simard AR, Hao J.Differentially expressed lncRNAs and mRNAs identified by microarray analysis in GBS patients vs healthy controls. Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 22(6):21819.

Zhang F, Gao C, Ma X, Peng X, Zhang R, Kong D, Simard AR, Hao J.Expression Profile of Long Noncoding RNAs in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells from Multiple Sclerosis Patients.CNS Neurosci Ther. 2016, 22(4): 298-305.

St-Pierre, S., Jiang, W., Champigny, C., LeBlanc, E., Morley, B. J., Hao, J., Simard, A. R. Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors modulate bone marrow-derived pro-inflammatory monocyte production and survival. PLOS ONE, 2016, Feb 29;11(2):e0150230.


Funded Projects

2018-2023  `Regulation of immune functions by the non-neuronal cholinergic system’, NSERC ($140,000) PI: Alain Simard

2018-2019   `Endogenous acetylcholine production by immune cells’, NOSMFA Research Development Grants ($7,125), PI: Alain Simard

2017-2020  `Characterizing the anti-inflammatory and disease-modifying potential of novel α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor silent agonists’, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada ($355,821), PI: Alain Simard