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Children's National researchers make breakthrough in understanding white matter development
Date:9/29/2011

WASHINGTON, DCThrough the identification of a gene's impact on a signaling pathway, scientists at Children's National Medical Center continue to make progress in understanding the mechanics of a key brain developmental process: growth and repair of white matter, known as myelination. The study, published online in the September 2011 online edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, identified Sox17 as the gene that helps regulate the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway during the transition of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, or immature brain cells, to a more mature, differentiated state where they generate myelin.

"This is the first time the Sox17 gene has been identified as a regulator of the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway during myelination," said Li-Jin Chew, PhD, lead author of the study. "Our findings indicate that loss of Sox17 over-stimulates the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway and keeps oligodendrocyte progenitor cells from maturing and producing myelin, potentially causing developmental disabilities in developing babies and children."

Myelin is the protective material around the axons of neurons; in mass these types of ensheathed neurons are collectively called white matter. White matter serves as the primary messaging "network" that conducts signals rapidly between gray matter areas. With
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Contact: Emily Hartman
ehartman@childrensnational.org
202-476-4500
Children's National Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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