Oligodendrocyte diversity and the different functions of these subpopulations might have a greater role in MS than previously thought.
Subpopulations of oligodendrocytes — cells that produce the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers — are altered in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a study shows. These findings suggest that oligodendrocyte diversity and the different functions of these subpopulations might have a greater role in the disease than previously thought.
The research article, “Altered human oligodendrocyte heterogeneity in multiple sclerosis,” was published in the journal Nature.
The severity of MS varies greatly, and the patient’s disability level does not correlate well with the degree of myelin loss. This suggests that other factors contribute to MS severity.
One such factor may be that oligodendrocytes are heterogeneous — diverse in makeup and function. For example, oligodendrocytes in mouse spinal cords are known to naturally produce longer myelin sheaths than oligodendrocytes in the mouse brain.
Additionally, individual oligodendrocytes have been shown to have different molecular makeups. However, the extent of human oligodendrocyte diversity and its possible contribution to MS pathology remains unknown.
Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet and the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine studied the differences of individual human oligodendrocytes from healthy and MS brains to assess their diversity. Specifically, the team examined oligodendrocytes from the white matter areas of post-mortem human brains both from MS and non-MS patients.
The team examined the RNA content — the messenger molecule carrying instructions from DNA for the production of proteins — from individual oligodendrocytes.
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