Scientists find novel cell type linked to myelination

January 18, 2018
Researchers at the University of Göttingen's Institute of Neuropathology report discovering a novel oligodendroglial cell type. The cell type appears only when a myelin sheath is being created. They hope the cells will help to identify new regenerative drugs.

A crucial prerequisite for the development of therapies that promote repair is a better understanding of myelin formation. Oligodendrocytes are specialized glial cells that are responsible for myelination in the central nervous system. The team believes that the BCAS1-positive oligodendrocytes they discovered represent an intermediate stage in the development of myelin-forming cells. 

In humans they can only be identified for a relatively short period of time, exactly then when myelin is actually being formed. In the human brain, for example, they are found in newborns, which generate myelin at high rate. In adults, these cells disappear, but they can be re-formed when myelin has been damaged and needs to be regenerated.

Results of mouse model studies sometimes do not translate to humans and may be years away from being a marketable treatment. The researchers hope that the BCAS1 positive cells will help to identify new regenerative medicines. According to the researchers, we can now rapidly screen for drugs that promote the formation of these cells. Furthermore they could be used to get a better understanding of exactly when and how myelin is created during the course of a human life.

The findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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