Biological Switch That Enables Stem Cells To Regenerate Myelin Found

Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating condition that is characterized by damage to the myelin sheath, the insulating layer that protect nerve fibers in the brain to enable efficient communication between the nerve cells and the brain in the central nervous system. A possible MS treatment that researchers look into aim to identify ways to repair the damaged myelin sheath. A promising method being looked into is trying to make use of stem cells to help in myelin repair in people with MS.

The potential use of stem cells for myelin repair has recently found a breakthrough as researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh have identified a biological switch that would enable stem cells to regenerate myelin in lab rats. The findings of the said study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

In the said study, the researchers looked at how the stem cells of MS patients repair myelin. During the course of the study, they have been able to identify a specific type of molecule called RXR-gamma that seems to play a key role in myelin repair. They then went on to determine how RXR-gamma may affect myelin repair in laboratory rats that are afflicted with MS.

The researchers found out that targeting RXR-gamma in their studies with laboratory rats with MS, there was evidence of myelin regeneration in the brain stem cells. According to Professor Robin Franklin,Director of the MS Society’s Cambridge Center for Myelin Repair at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study, said, “Therapies that repair damage are the missing link in treating multiple sclerosis. In this study we have identified a means by which the brain”s own stem cells can be encouraged to undertake this repair, opening up the possibility of a new regenerative medicine for this devastating disease.”

There is already a drug used in cancer treatment that targets RXR-gamma. The researchers are studying to see how it may be used as a potential treatment for MS patients. The next step in the said study, according to the MS Society in the UK, is to work towards conducting clinical trials to find out how this potential treatment may work on human MS patients.


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