Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Each nerve fibre in the brain and spinal cord is surrounded by a layer of protein called myelin, which protects the nerve and helps electrical signals from the brain travel to the rest of the body. In MS, the myelin becomes damaged. This disrupts the transfer of these nerve signals, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, such as loss of vision, uncontrolled muscle movements, difficulties with balance and co-ordination, and fatigue. In addition to the myelin sheath covering being damaged, MS can also damage the underlying nerve fibre called axons. It is thought that axonal damage is the main cause of disability and disease progression in MS.
Myelination models have been developed using Mimetix aligned fibres as model axons. The Mimetix aligned fibre scaffold supports:
Dr Marie Bechler, a senior researcher in the ffrench-Constant laboratory at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said “The aligned Mimetix scaffold fibres have been an invaluable tool, allowing us to answer fundamental questions regarding how oligodendrocytes form central nervous system (CNS) myelin sheaths. The suppliers of the Mimetix fibres worked with us to create customised three-dimensional fibres, facilitating the development of an oligodendrocyte culture assay. The culture system we developed permits the examination of myelin sheath formation in the absence of neurons. The aligned microfibres used in our research have enabled us to examine both the physical and molecular signals sufficient to drive CNS myelin sheath formation, which could not be assessed in other culture models. This has opened new opportunities to examine the role of physical cues, heterogeneity due to oligodendrocyte origin, and the sufficiency of molecules to control the number and size of myelin sheaths formed by oligodendrocytes. Our findings and future work illuminate how myelin sheaths are formed during brain and spinal cord development as well as what signals enhance myelin sheath formation. This research is of particular importance for developing future therapies for diseases of myelin loss, such as multiple sclerosis and leukodystrophies”.
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