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Mysterious cells may play role in ALS
Date:11/17/2010

es than in normal mice, says Shin Kang, Ph.D, a research associate in The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience.

"This suggests there is significant oligodendrocyte death even before anything else degenerates," he explains, "which identifies a new and important player in the progression of this disease."

All this frenetic oligodendrocyte-generating activity takes place in the central nervous system's gray matter where other cells the motor neurons are dying. A body of research shows that after acute trauma to the central nervous system, a short-term upswing in NG2+ activity takes place that may help reduce the extent of damage. Whether this change in behavior of NG2+ cells is protective, or accelerates the death of motor neurons in ALS, is not yet known.

Earlier studies in lab-dish cultures showed that NG2+ cells acted like stem cells, capable of turning into the major cell types in the nervous system, suggesting that they could be harnessed to replace cells that died as a result of injury or disease. However, the Hopkins team saw no evidence that the cells become anything other than oligodendrocytes in both healthy animals and those carrying the ALS mutant gene.

"Although we found that the potential of these cells is more limited than previously thought, it might be possible to coax them to adopt different fates," Bergles says. "We only need to know what factors are restricting their development in the intact nervous system."

"This goes much further than simply confirming a negative finding about these mysterious cells," adds Kang. "We've answered a question, but the new observation about the overgrowth could lead to an entirely new understanding of ALS."


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Contact: Maryalice Yakutchik
myakutc1@jhmi.edu
443-287-2251
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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