Brain cell insight could lead to new treatments for MS

marzo 15, 2022
New research may help scientists locate immature cells in the central nervous system that could shed light on the causes of neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and allow for the development of better therapeutic treatments.

In a new study, Rutgers University researchers looked at cells known as oligodendrocytes in the brain and spinal cord that produce myelin, which protects nerve cells and allows them to work properly. The scientists discovered that oligodendrocyte cells in the brain are distinct from oligodendrocytes in the spinal cord in a fundamental way — their metabolic processes, the essential chemical reactions that power them, are completely different. This could help researchers find ways to boost, protect, or restore myelin production depending on the types of cells they are targeting.

One hope for treatment lies in locating immature cells laced throughout the central nervous system that will mature into oligodendrocytes to make myelin. Research into the characteristics of oligodendrocytes is central to this endeavor.

Overall, the research team made three key findings:
  • Cholesterol, a building block of myelin, is produced by oligodendrocytes in the spinal cord at a greater efficiency and volume than oligodendrocytes in the brain. Understanding how and where a building block of myelin is produced could assist researchers looking for ways to thwart myelin destruction or to promote myelin repair in certain areas.
  • The cell protein known as mTOR (short for: mechanistic target of rapamycin) is necessary for the production of cholesterol in oligodendrocytes. By recognizing this protein, researchers may be able to target it to enhance cholesterol and myelin production.
  • The cell protein mTOR is also critical for maintaining the already-formed myelin structures in the central nervous system.

The study was published in the journal Cell Report.
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