New research points to potential treatment strategies for multiple sclerosis

June 24, 2013
Myelin, the fatty coating that protects neurons in the brain and spinal cord, is destroyed in diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Researchers have been striving to determine whether oligodendrocytes, the cells that produce myelin, can be stimulated to make new myelin. Using live imaging in zebrafish to track oligodendrocytes in real time, researchers reporting in the June 24 issue of the Cell Press journal Developmental Cell discovered that individual oligodendrocytes coat neurons with myelin for only five hours after they are born. If the findings hold true in humans, they could lead to new treatment strategies for multiple sclerosis. Credit: Developmental Cell, Czopka et al.

Myelin, the fatty coating that protects neurons in the brain and spinal cord, is destroyed in diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Researchers have been striving to determine whether oligodendrocytes, the cells that produce myelin, can be stimulated to make new myelin. Using live imaging in zebrafish to track oligodendrocytes in real time, researchers reporting in the June 24 issue of the Cell Press journal Developmental Cell discovered that individual oligodendrocytes coat neurons with myelin for only five hours after they are born. If the findings hold true in humans, they could lead to new treatment strategies for multiple sclerosis.

"The study could help improve our understanding of the triggers needed to encourage cells to produce myelin," says senior author Dr. David Lyons, of the University of Edinburgh, UK. For example, if scientists could determine what is blocking the cells from making myelin after five hours, they might be able to remove that blockage. Alternatively, treatments could focus on creating more new oligodendrocytes rather than trying to stimulate existing oligodendrocytes.

Dr. Lyons and his team used zebrafish to study the formation of by oligodendrocytes because this laboratory animal is transparent at early stages of its development, which allows investigators to directly observe cells within the organism. It is also known that zebrafish and humans have very similar genes, and these similarities extend to more than 80% of the genes associated with human disease. Zebrafish therefore respond in very similar ways to most drugs used for therapeutic purposes in humans.

"In the future, will be used to identify new genes and drugs that can influence myelin formation and myelin repair," says Dr. Lyons.

Explore further: Changes in nerve cells may contribute to the development of mental illness

More information: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2013.05.013

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

Anti-aging tricks from dietary supplement seen in mice

August 21, 2015

In human cells, shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, are both a sign of aging and contribute to it. Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found that the dietary supplement ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.