Amsterdam, 21 July 2009 - In the July issue of Biomaterials, published by Elsevier, researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) report on the first lab-grown motor nerves that are insulated and organized just like they are in the human body. The model system will drastically improve understanding of the causes of myelin-related conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy and later, possibly multiple sclerosis (MS). In addition, the model system will enable the discovery and testing of new drug therapies for these conditions.
MS, diabetic neuropathy, and many conditions that are caused by a loss of myelin, which forms protective insulation around our nerves, can be debilitating and even deadly. Adequate treatments do not yet exist. Researchers at the UCF have identified this to be a result of a deficiency in model research systems.
James Hickman, a bioengineer at UCF and the lead researcher on this project explained: "The nodes of Ranvier act like power station relays along the myelin sheath. They chemically boost signals, allowing them to get across breaks in myelin, or from node to node, at the electrically charged nodes of Ranvier. Nerve malfunctions, called neuropathies, involve a breakdown in the way the brain sends and receives electric signals along nerve cells, leading to malfunctions at the nodes of Ranvier, along with demyelination". Hickman's team has now achieved the first successful model nodes of Ranvier formation on motor nerves in a defined serum-free culture system.
Researchers have long recognized the need for lab-grown motor nerve cells that myelinate and form nodes of Ranvier in order to use controlled lab conditions to zero in on the causes of demyelination. Yet, due to the complexity of the nervous system, it has been a challenge to study demyelinating neuropathies, and researchers have been confined to using animal models.
The main difference with this research was that Hickman's gro
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