Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Dr Helene Gautier has recently revealed an important regulatory mechanism of how the brain can repair itself. This discovery could have significant implications for the development of future therapies for diseases of the nervous system.
Her research studies repair processes after nerves cells lose their myelin, a fatty substance which insulates the nerve fibres and allows fast electrical signals in the brain. Dr Gautier explained “In disease such as multiple sclerosis (MS), the myelin sheath is lost. Remarkably, stem cells present in the brain can spontaneously make new myelin and recover lost function. However, as the disease progresses the repair often fails, leading to sustained disability. In order to be able to design novel therapies to promote myelin repair in disease, we need to fully understand how this repair process works”.
To understand the repair process, Dr Gautier used electrical recording techniques to discover the synaptic connections between the nerves cells and the stem cells, which enable them to communicate directly with the stem cells and direct them to produce new myelin.
“This finding indicates for the first time that synaptic communication between nerve fibres that have lost myelin and stem cells exists and is important for myelin repair. Therefore, armed with this new knowledge, we can start looking into ways to enhance this communication to promote myelin repair in disease” Dr Karadottir, the project’s Principal Investigator, said.