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Molecular Partners Required For Appropriate Neuronal Gene Repression

Oregon Health & Science University researchers have identified some of the key factors that prevent the repair of brain damage caused by multiple sclerosis (MS), complications of premature birth, and other diseases and conditions. The findings offer important clues about why the nervous system fails to repair itself and suggest ways that at least some forms of brain damage could be reversed. The research is published in the August edition of the scientific journal Nature Medicine.

"For many years, scientists have understood that damage to the insulation-like sheath surrounding nerve cells in the brain, called myelin, is part of the disease process for MS and other brain disorders," said Larry Sherman, Ph.D., an associate scientist in the Division of Neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and an adjunct associate professor of cell and developmental biology in the OHSU School of Medicine. "In recent years, it became clear that there were cells at the sites of this damage that should have the capacity to repair the brain and spinal cord but they fail to do so. Our studies have revealed that there is a particular signal in the damaged brain that prevents these cells from restoring lost myelin. We're hopeful that we can develop methods to counteract this process in animal models in our search for human treatments."

Other key OHSU researchers involved in the study are: Stephen Back, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of pediatrics and neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine; and Bruce Bebo Jr., Ph.D., a scientist in the OHSU Neurological Sciences Institute and an associate professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

The researchers decided to collaborate following a key finding in Sherman's lab where scientists were studying a mouse model for tumors in the central nervous system. The mice had been bred to overproduce a protein which had been implicated previously in tumor formation. The protein, called CD44, is
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