Shedding new light on myelination and potential therapies for MS

Research done at IBEC that was published in the journal Cell. Mol. Life Sci. last week reveals a hopeful new lead in the quest to understand neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

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Ana Bribián, who carried out the study while she was in IBEC’s Molecular and Cellular Neurobiotechnology group, and her new colleagues at the Hospital Nacional de Parapléjicos in Toledo have shed light on the role played by a particular enzyme in regulating the cells which are crucial to avoid MS.

Oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) in the central nervous system differentiate into oligodendrocytes, which produce myelin to protect and insulate the long nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis is known to be a demyelinating disease: that is, a disease that results from the progressive breakdown of myelin in the central nervous system.

When this happens, the central nervous system reacts by using proliferating adult OPCs, which represent about 5-7% of the total number of cells in the adult brain, to remyelinate. However, several factors affect the production and differentiation of these OPCs, one of them being the enzyme PDE7, which compromises their proliferation, differentation and survival.

The researchers found two new inhibitors for PDE7 which, when applied, reduced the OPCs’ death rate and accelerated their maturation into oligodendrocytes which could then carry out the remyelination process. “Our findings reveal new roles for PDE7 in regulating OPC survival and differentiation, both during brain development and adulthood,” says Ana, who was a postdoc in the group of José Antonio del Río until April this year. “This may further the understanding of myelination and help develop therapeutic remyelination strategies for the treatment of MS.”

Medina-Rodríguez EM, Arenzana FJ, Pastor J, Redondo M, Palomo V, García de Sola R, Gil C, Martínez A, Bribián A, de Castro F. (2013). Inhibition of endogenous phosphodiesterase 7 promotes oligodendrocyte precursor differentiation and survival. Cell Mol Life Sci

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