MS researchers find new ways to regenerate the brain's insulation

August 27, 2018 by Kathryn Powley, University of Melbourne
Myelin sheath. Credit: Wikipedia.

University of Melbourne researchers have found a way to rebuild damaged nerve coverings that cause Multiple Sclerosis.

Finding ways to restore the myelin sheath is recognised as important to preventing the progression of disability in MS patients.

Researcher Jessica Fletcher led the team who made the discovery and their findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

"Your runs on electricity. And, like electrical wires, your nervous system needs insulation. These nerves are covered by an insulating sheath called myelin that is vital to the normal functioning of our nervous system," Dr Fletcher said.

"But for those people affected by diseases like MS, this insulating is destroyed by the immune system – leading to significant nerve dysfunction as well as slowed or blocked nerve conduction between the brain and the rest of the body."

Dr Fletcher said the team successfully used a synthetic compound to stimulate a receptor pathway to promote remyelination in the brain.

"There's nothing currently available to help with repair. The beauty of what our team has done is taken what naturally occurs in healthy cells and used that to manipulate a similar response in damaged cells," she said. 

"It's very basic foundation research to show that this idea can work."

Dr Fletcher said this was early-stage research and any medical application to the discovery would be a long way off.

Explore further: Damaged nerve cells communicate with stem cells

More information: Jessica L. Fletcher et al. Targeting TrkB with a Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Mimetic Promotes Myelin Repair in the Brain, The Journal of Neuroscience (2018). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0487-18.2018

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