A recent study led by Gonçalo Castelo-Branco at Karolinska Institutet shows that oligodendrocytes, a cell type in the brain and spinal cord, might have a significant role in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS). The project was enabled by the National Genomics Infrastructure (NGI), the Eukaryotic Single Cell Genomics Unit (ESCG) and the National Bioinformatics platform (NBIS) at SciLifeLab.
2.5 million people around the world live with MS. The disease develops when the immune attack the insulating fatty substance known as myelin that coats nerve fibres in the central nervous system. This interferes with nerve signal transmission and causes the symptoms of the disease. While it is unknown why the immune system attacks the myelin, the present study demonstrates in mice that the cells that produce myelin, oligodendrocytes, might play an unexpected role. The findings can lead to new MS treatment options, targeted at other areas than the immune system.
In the present study, the researchers show that a subset of oligodendrocytes and their progenitor cells have much in common with the immune cells, in a mouse model of MS. For example, they participate in removing damaged myelin, in a way that resembles how immune cells function. Furthermore, RNA sequencing results reveal genes that have been identified as those that cause a susceptibility to MS are actively expressed in oligodendrocytes and their progenitors.
Read the full paper in Nature Medicine