Image is of a nerve cell

Could this discovery pave way for myelin repair?

Scientists in Iran have developed an innovative method to transform astrocytes, which are star-shaped brain cells that support nerve functions, into oligodendrocytes, which are responsible for making and repairing myelin in the brain.

Researchers at Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran discovered that when these converted cells were transplanted into the brains of mice with myelin damage similar to that seen in multiple sclerosis (MS), they successfully helped repair the damaged myelin.

In their study, the scientists outlined a new approach to cultivate astrocytes into oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) in the laboratory. This method involves a specific mixture of small molecules added at precise concentrations to the culture medium used for growing the astrocytes. Aside from its initial setup, the process is relatively straightforward, requiring only periodic refreshing of the medium.

The OPCs generated through this technique displayed all the key biochemical properties typical of their cell type. Crucially, they were capable of maturing into myelin-producing oligodendrocytes.

To further validate their findings, the researchers transplanted the astrocyte-derived OPCs into the brains of mice with a disease model resembling multiple sclerosis. These mice were treated with cuprizone, a toxic chemical that induces MS-like damage to the myelin sheath. As observed in vitro, the transplanted OPCs matured into functional oligodendrocytes, effectively repairing the myelin damage in the mouse model.