Scientists Discover Remyelination Activity In Cats

A study involving a mysterious neurological disorder that affects cats yielded some surprising discoveries. The scientists involved in the study also discovered how the cat’s central nervous system can repair itself and restore its function. The recent discovery helps scientists find ways to treat neurological disorders that affect not just cats, but also people with multiple sclerosis.

Restoration of myelin

A team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported how the restoration of myelin, a fatty tissue that acts as insulation to nerve fibers, can lead to functional recovery caused by central nervous system disorders. According to Dr. Ian Duncan, the head researcher and a neuroscientist at the UW-Madison, "The fundamental point of the study is that it proves unequivocally that extensive remyelination can lead to recovery from a severe neurological disorder. It indicates the profound ability of the central nervous system to repair itself."

Myelin is a type of fatty substance that forms around nerve fibers known as axons. Myelin acts as an insulator that also facilitates the conduction of nerve signals going through the axons. When the nerve fibers lose myelin through certain forms of diseases that affect the central nervous system, it can eventually lead to a number of symptoms such as impairment of movement and sensation, cognition problems and other functions, depending on what nerves were affected.

Important breakthrough

The discovery is considered an important breakthrough since it reinforces the validity of finding strategies to re-establish myelin as a means of treating certain neurological diseases. The recent study came about after researchers began studying a mysterious affliction that affects pregnant cats. In the study, the cats developed certain neurological dysfunctions like movement disorders, vision loss as well as paralysis after three to four months under an irradiated diet.

The afflicted cats had severe and widely distributed demyelination of the central nervous system. The cats also suffered from neurological symptoms also associated with the ones that humans with demyelination disorders suffer from. But the disorder affecting the cats was unlike any of the myelin related disorders in humans.

When the cats were taken off the irradiated diet, they underwent a slow recovery that saw remyelination of the affected nerve fibers. This also led to the cats experiencing a restoration of their affected functions. Although the thin myelin membrane restored was not as thick as healthy or normal myelin, it was still able to restore the functions that it is meant to do.

Knowing that the central nervous system has the ability to restore myelin sheaths in nerve fibers strongly supports the idea that restoration of the myelin may also be possible for people suffering from multiple sclerosis. This can also help them regain some of their lost or impaired functions.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Nine Lives: Cats’ Central Nervous System Can Repair Itself And Restore Function." ScienceDaily 31 March 2009. 7 April 2009

 
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