Researchers Identify Master Switch For Myelination In Stem Cells

shutterstock_109989377Researchers from the University of Buffalo have identified a master switch that triggers the myelination process in the brain. This offers hope for people stricken with multiple sclerosis, a disease characterized by damage to the myelin sheath in nerve cells. The findings are published in the online journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers have identified a transcription factor called SOX10 in human brain cells which initiates myelination in brain stem cells. Stem cell therapy offers the potential to offer treatments to diseases such as multiple sclerosis. But current methods takes a long time to produce enough stem cells to treat a single MS patient. The reason is the various steps it takes to create the stem cells out of existing human cells.

Scientists prefer to go directly to existing stem cells that can be made to produce myelin. The discovery of the transcription factor SOX10 may someday lead to the development of treatments that will induce the remyelination process in patients suffering from MS. The UB researchers have discovered that SOX10 can speed up the transformation of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells into oligodendrocytes, which are the myelin producing cells. This is what scientists are now trying to develop for treatment of MS.

According to Fraser Sim, PhD, assistant professor in the UB Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the senior author on the paper, “In MS, first the immune system attacks the brain, but the brain is unable to repair itself effectively. If we could boost the regeneration step by facilitating formation of oligodendrocytes from progenitor cells, then we might be able to keep patients in the relapsing remitting stage of MS, a far less burdensome stage of disease than the later, progressive stage.”

Source: Medical News Today

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