"We previously believed that the developing brain fails to make normal myelin, because the oligo-cells that make the myelin were completely killed. Hence, it was thought that the children with CP sustain permanent abnormalities in movement and intellect," Back explained. "However, our recent studies suggest that this view may not be correct."
Back and Lawrence Sherman, Ph.D., an associate scientist in the OHSU Oregon National Primate Research Center, have discovered that after adult white matter damage, numerous oligo-cells survive, but fail to mature to make myelin. This appears related to a molecule called hyaluronic acid (HA) that builds up in the damaged white matter and prevents the normal production of myelin.
"The oligo-cells are blocked at a critical period in their cell development before they are able to make myelin. The fact that these cells appear normal and are present in large numbers in the regions of brain damage raises the possibility that we might develop therapies that allow these oligo-cells to mature and make the myelin needed to restore greater function to the damaged brain," Back said.
Back is the second OHSU researcher to receive this highly coveted
award. In 2002 Edward Neuwelt, M.D., professor of neurosurgery and
neurology, OHSU School of Medicine, Portland Veterans Affairs Medical
Center, and director of the OHSU Blood Brain Barrier Program, received a
Javits Award for his contributions to th
Contact: Tamara Hargens-Bradley
Oregon Health & Science University