Dr. Charles ffrench-Constant is a professor at the University of Edinburgh, director of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, and a pioneer in the fields of nervous system tissue repair and myelin biology. We were fortunate to have Dr. ffrench-Constant with us at the endMS conference to talk about a very active and expanding area of research in MS – remyelination. Remyelination, a term which refers to the repair of the protective myelin sheathe surrounding nerve cells, is the key to slowing disease progression and rebuilding the central nervous system in MS. Remyelination allows the nerve cells to recover from injury, and avoid further damage. With many currently available and emerging therapies treating inflammation, the research community’s attention is now turning to remyelination with the aim of enhancing this process to reduce disability and restore neurological function.
Through highly advanced imaging experiments, Dr. ffrench-Constant and his research team demonstrated that the cells which are capable of producing myelin, called oligodendrocytes, have a very brief window of time to generate new myelin following inflammatory damage. Once that moment has passed, the cells do not produce new myelin again. Determining when, and exactly how long, this restricted time frame for remyelination remains critically important in understanding the process of repair in MS.
Image: The image above shows an oligodendrocyte in contact with cells of the central nervous system, called neurons. The oligodendrocyte produces the protective myelin sheathe that covers the cord-like structures of the neurons, called axons.
Photo credit: MSAlliance