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Motor Learning Boosts Myelin Repair in New Mouse Study Co-Funded by Society

May 18, 2020

Researchers at the University of Colorado showed that precisely-timed learning of a motor task enhanced the repair of nerve fiber-insulating myelin in mice. Myelin in the brain and spinal cord is a key target of multiple sclerosis, so finding a way to stop myelin destruction and stimulate its repair is urgently needed to prevent disease progression and restore function in people with MS.
  • This team is partially funded with a research grant from the National MS Society to use advanced imaging techniques that enable them to visualize myelin and the cells that make myelin ito observe repair processes as they happen in real time.
  • They used these and other techniques to observe mice during the process of learning to reach for something, and for several months afterward. In healthy mice, the development of myelin-making cells decreased during learning, but then rebounded and doubled compared with untrained mice. There was evidence of new myelin sheath formation as well.
  • The team then examined this process in mice that had myelin damage. In mice in which motor learning started three days after myelin damage, there were limited signs of myelin repair. However, in mice in which learning started later, when repair of nerve cell function had begun to occur, motor learning significantly enhanced the development of myelin-making cells, repair of myelin damage, and the formation of new myelin sheaths.
  • The enhanced myelin production involved both mature myelin-making cells already in place, as well as new cells generated at the sites of damage.
  • Although this study was conducted in lab mice, it adds to a growing body of research on the basic biology underlying how rehabilitation approaches and exercise may help the brain to recover function in MS.
Motor Learning Promotes Remyelination via New and Surviving Oligodendrocytes” was published by Dr. Ethan Hughes and colleagues at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on May 18, 2020 in Nature Neuroscience.

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.

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