Scientists at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found a way to rapidly produce pure populations of cells that grow into the protective myelin coating on nerves in mice. Their process opens a door to research and potential treatments for multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other demyelinating diseases afflicting millions of people worldwide.
The findings will be published in the online issue of Nature Methods, Sunday, Sept. 25, at 1 p.m. EST.
"The mouse cells that we utilized, which are pluripotent epiblast stem cells, can make any cell type in body," Paul Tesar, an assistant professor of genetics at Case Western Reserve and senior author of the study, explained. "So our goal was to devise precise methods to specifically turn them into pure populations of myelinating cells, called oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, or OPCs."
Their success holds promise for basic research and beyond.
"The ability of these methods to produce functional cells that restore myelin in diseased mice provides a solid framework for the ability to produce analogous human cells for use in the clinic," said Robert H. Miller, vice dean for research at the school of medicine and an author of the paper.
Tesar worked with CWRU School of Medicine researchers Fadi J. Najm, Shreya Nayak, and Peter C. Scacheri, from the department of genetics; Anita Zaremba, Andrew V. Caprariello and Miller, from the department of neurosciences; and with Eric. C. Freundt, now at the University of Tampa.
Myelin protects nerve axons and provides insulation needed for signals to pass along nerves intact. Loss of the coating results in damage to nerves and diminished signal-carrying capacity, which can be expressed outwardly in symptoms such as loss of coordination and cognitive function.
Scientists believe that manipulating a patient's own OPCs or transplanting OPCs could be a way to restore myelin.
And, they have long
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Case Western Reserve University