Researchers generate a brain cell type crucial to support neural activity

November 12, 2020

The loss of oligodendrocytes (OLs) -highly specialized cells of the brain that produce myelin, an essential structure enabling an efficient transmission of electrical signals and the support of neural activity- is a frequent condition in patients suffering neurodegenerative diseases.

Researchers of the Department of Cellular Biology, Genetics and Physiology of the University of Malaga (UMA) have succeeded in generating human OLs from pluripotent stem cells derived from patients with nervous system diseases, specifically multiple sclerosis or ALS.

This is a new method that is faster and more efficient, because it enables the generation of OLs in just three weeks. This find is highlighted on the November cover of the scientific journal Nature Protocols.

"So far, no one has developed any treatment that reverts the loss of myelin and OLs in these patients, probably because there hasn't been an appropriate platform available to study these phenomena", says the researcher of the UMA Juan Antonio García-León, main author of this study.

According to this expert, the generated cells are equivalent of the OLs of a human brain, and they produced myelin around neurons when transplanted in the brain of an animal model.

Efficient drugs

García-León explains that these cells could be used to advance in searching efficient treatments that favor myelination. In fact, as he asserts, a biotechnology company already uses this new method to develop an efficient drug to revert myelin loss involved in multiple sclerosis, something crucial to counteract its symptoms and pathologies.

Neurological diseases

Although the studies on the alteration of OLs and myelin in patients with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or schizophrenia are still limited, some recent studies argue its fundamental role in these conditions.

The UMA is working in collaboration with other national and international R&D&I groups on the application of this new technology in those diseases in which its exact involvement is unknown.

This study has been conducted by the R&D&I group of the UMA "NeuroAD" -member of the Biomedical Research Institute of Malaga (IBIMA) and the Network Center for Biomedical Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (CIBERNED)- led by Professor Antonia Gutiérrez. The researchers of the UMA José Carlos Dávila and Laura Cáceres have also participated in the study. Likewise, this research has been developed in collaboration with the KU Leuven University (Belgium) and the Sorbonne University (Paris).
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University of Malaga

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