The research is published online today in Nature Medicine.
Stephen A. Back, M.D., Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, Portland, and colleagues identified some of the key factors that prevent brain damage repair in premature babies and patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) or certain other neurological diseases. Their findings offer important clues about why the nervous systems fails to repair itself and suggest that some forms of brain damage could be reversed.
Dr. Back, who studies developmental brain injury in premature infants, previously found a link between damage to white matter in the brain associated with premature birth, and damage to immature cells in the brain and spinal cord, called oligodendrocyte progenitors. These cells normally mature to become oligodendrocytes that make myelin (the insulating sheath surrounding nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord) throughout life. In some cases, these cells fail to mature and cannot repair damage to the white matter of the brain.
The white matter is made up of long nerve fibers wrapped in myelin. Different kinds of white matter injury cause cerebral palsy and learning problems in children born prematurely, and MS in older children and adults. Dr. Back and his colleagues found that hyaluronic acid (HA) prevent immature oligodendrocytes from maturing and coating nerve fibers with new myelin. Astrocytes, the first-responders to nerve damage in the brain, produce HA, which accumulates on nerve fibers where myelin is missing.
"Preterm birth can interrupt the normal myelination process. Therefore, this report may help to expl
Contact: Elizabeth Lynch
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation