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Cell Communication “Hotspots” in Zebrafish Predict Myelin Repair in Novel Study Funded by National MS Society

January 16, 2024

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have identified “hotspots” involved in the communication between nerves and myelin-making cells that predict when and where nerve-insulating myelin will form in a zebrafish model. Studying these models further can yield strategies for promoting myelin repair and restoring function in people with MS.

Background: Multiple sclerosis involves damage to tissues in the brain and spinal cord, including disruptive damage to the myelin coating that insulates and supports nerve fibers. The brain has stores of immature cells (oligodendrocyte precrusor cells, or OPCs) that have potential to mature into myelin-making cells and replace damaged myelin. Previous research had identified unique junctions, or synapses, which are points of communication between nerve cells and OPCs, but their function was a mystery.

During a postdoctoral fellowship funded by the National MS Society, Jiaxing Li, PhD, and mentor Kelly Monk, PhD, wanted to know more about these synapses and their relationship to myelin formation. They addressed these questions using zebrafish. Zebrafish have myelin similar to that in people and other mammals but it develops faster. Young Zebrafish are transparent, which allows scientists to see synapse structures in real time in living fish.

The Study: Using powerful new tools in imaging, pharmacology, and genetics, the team identified specific proteins and signals related to the synapses that formed “hotspots.” These hotspots predicted when and where myelin would form.

Why does this matter? This team is using a novel model for studying critical mechanisms in myelin formation. They are continuing this work to get more information about how OPCs and nerve cells communicate and how this communication affects myelin formation. The proteins and signals in these “hotspots” represent promising targets for developing strategies to promote the repair of myelin and restore function in people with MS.

Learn More…
Read more about this study on the Oregon Health Science University website

Synaptic input and Ca2+ 20 activity in zebrafish oligodendrocyte precursor cells 21 (OPCs) contribute to myelin sheath formation“ by Jiaxing Li, Tania G. Miramontes, Tim Czopka, and Kelly R. Monk, is published in Nature Neuroscience (Published online January 12, 2024).

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Currently there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include disabling fatigue, mobility challenges, cognitive changes, and vision issues. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimize disability. Significant progress is being made to achieve a world free of MS.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The National MS Society, founded in 1946, is the global leader of a growing movement dedicated to creating a world free of MS. The Society funds cutting-edge research for a cure, drives change through advocacy and provides programs and services to help people affected by MS live their best lives. Connect to learn more and get involved:, Facebook, X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or 1-800-344-4867.


© 2024 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its Identification Number (EIN) is 13-5661935.