The pathology of MS represents a nexus between an immune mediated response and damage to the Central Nervous System. The aims of the current project are to focus on the nervous system, most particularly the myelinating cells. It is these myelinating cells within the nervous system, Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system and oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system, that are responsible for ensheathing the axons of neurons in myelin, and it is these cells that are most effected in Multiple Sclerosis.
We are most interested in analysing the positive and negative signals that regulate myelination, which largely remain obscure. Recent reports indicate that a family of growth factors called the neurotrophins act as both positive and negative modulators of myelination. We are analysing one particular neurotrophin, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and investigating its role in regulating myelination.
We have made significant progress in our research in 2005. We are now faithfully recapitulating the interactions between neurons and myelinating cells in tissue culture, and are able to measure the extent to which the axonal processes of the neurons cells become myelinated. We are assessing the role BDNF plays in this process. We have established that BDNF plays an important role in this cellular interaction. Our data clearly indicates that BDNF actively promotes the interaction between neurons and myelinating cells, enhancing the ability of Schwann cells to wrap around and myelinate the neurons. We are currently in the process of extending these observations into oligodendrocytes as well.
These data form the basis of further studies that will take place in 2006. We will investigate and identify the cellular processes that promote and enhance myelination. This is particularly important, as it will enable the identification and targeting of new genes and signaling pathways that are specifically activated during myelination, so that we can directly promote re-myelination after a demyelinating insult within the peripheral or central nervous systems.
Updated: 06 January, 2006