Turning back the clock for Schwann cells

May 19, 2008

Myelin-making Schwann cells have an ability every aging Hollywood star would envy: they can become young again. According to a study appearing in the May 19 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology, David B. Parkinson (University College London, London, UK) and collogues have pinned down a protein that returns the cells to their youth, a finding that might help researchers understand why myelin production falters in some diseases.

Wrapped around neurons in the peripheral nervous system, Schwann cells can “dedifferentiate” into a state in which they can’t manufacture myelin. Reverting to an immature type of cell speeds healing of injured nerves. Researchers knew that the protein Krox-20 pushes immature Schwann cells to specialize and form myelin, but they didn’t know what prompts the reversal. One suspect was a protein called c-Jun, which youthful Schwann cells make but Krox-20 blocks.

Parkinson et al. cultured neurons with Schwann cells whose c-Jun gene they could activate. Turning on the gene curbed myelination, suggesting that c-Jun prevents young Schwann cells from growing up. c-Jun also prodded mature Schwann cells to become youthful again, the researchers discovered. Schwann cells that are separated from neurons normally dedifferentiate, but the team found that the cells remained specialized if c-Jun was missing. They suspect that c-Jun works in part by activating Sox-2, as this protein also inhibits myelination.

The researchers now want to investigate whether c-Jun is involved in illnesses where myelin dwindles, such as Charcot-Marie Tooth disease and Guillain-Barre syndrome. The results might also provide clues about multiple sclerosis, in which immune attacks destroy myelin in the central nervous system. Unlike Schwann cells, oligodendrocytes, the myelin makers in the central nervous system, can’t revert to an immature state. Whether c-Jun affects oligodendrocyte differentiation isn’t known.

Source: Rockefeller University

Explore further: Peacock's train is not such a drag

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Peacock's train is not such a drag

17 minutes ago

The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, University of Leeds researchers have discovered.

Space: The final frontier... open to the public

39 minutes ago

Historically, spaceflight has been reserved for the very healthy. Astronauts are selected for their ability to meet the highest physical and psychological standards to prepare them for any unknown challenges. However, with ...

NASA releases IRIS footage of X-class flare (w/ Video)

39 minutes ago

On Sept. 10, 2014, NASA's newest solar observatory, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission joined other telescopes to witness an X-class flare – an example of one of the strongest solar flares—on ...

NASA sees Odile soaking Mexico and southwestern US

43 minutes ago

Tropical Storm Odile continues to spread moisture and generate strong thunderstorms with heavy rainfall over northern Mexico's mainland and the Baja California as well as the southwestern U.S. NASA's Tropical ...

Recommended for you

Peacock's train is not such a drag

17 minutes ago

The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, University of Leeds researchers have discovered.

Iberian pig genome remains unchanged after five centuries

5 hours ago

A team of Spanish researchers have obtained the first partial genome sequence of an ancient pig. Extracted from a sixteenth century pig found at the site of the Montsoriu Castle in Girona, the data obtained indicates that ...

User comments : 0