Publication date: Sep 06, 2019
Credit: Scientists have developed a compound that successfully promotes rebuilding of the protective sheath around nerve cells that is damaged in conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Researchers at Oregon Health Science University have already started to apply the compound on a rare population of macaque monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU who develop a disease that is similar to MS in humans. In that study, scientists discovered that a molecule called hyaluronic acid, or HA, accumulates in the brains of patients with MS. Further, the scientists linked this accumulation of HA to the failure of cells called oligodendrocytes to mature. Subsequent studies led by the Sherman lab showed that HA is broken down into small fragments in multiple sclerosis lesions by enzymes called hyaluronidases. In collaboration with Stephen Back, M. D., Ph. D., a professor of pediatrics in the OHSU School of Medicine, Sherman discovered that the fragments of HA generated by hyaluronidases send a signal to immature oligodendrocytes not to turn on their myelin genes. For the past decade, an international team of researchers led by OHSU has been working to develop a compound that neutralizes the hyaluronidase in the brains of patients with MS and other neurodegenerative diseases, thereby reviving the ability of progenitor cells to mature into myelin-producing oligodendrocytes.
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