Glial cells, which help neurons communicate with each other, can leave the central nervous system and cross into the peripheral nervous system to compensate for missing cells, according to new research in the Dec. 2 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
The animal study contributes to researchers' basic understanding of how the two nervous systems develop and are maintained, which is essential for the effective treatment of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
The nervous system is divided into the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (sensory organs, muscles, and glands). A major difference between the systems is that each has its own type of glial cells. In a healthy body, glial cells are tightly segregated and aren't known to travel between the two systems. The peripheral nervous system also regenerates more than the central nervous system, due in part to its glial cells — a characteristic that, if better understood, might be used to improve the regenerative capabilities of the central nervous system.
Glial cells serve nerve cells by insulating them with layers of fats and proteins called myelin. Myelin coatings are necessary for nerve signals to be transmitted normally; when the sheaths are lost, disorders involving impairment in sensation, movement and cognition such as multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis develop. Glial cells named oligodendrocytes produce myelin around nerves of the central nervous system, while those named Schwann cells make myelin that insulates peripheral nerves.
This study shows that in the absence of Schwann cells, oligodendrocytes migrate from the central nervous system along motor nerves and form myelin on peripheral nerves, indicating that glial cell movement across the border is controlled by a self-policing mechanism.
"Past studies have hinted that Schwann cells can cross into the central nervous system after peripheral nerves near the border are damaged, or after central nerves lose their myelin sheath," said Bruce Appel, PhD, of the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, one of the study's authors. "However, migration across the border has never been observed directly, nor was there any evidence that oligodendrocytes can move in the opposite direction."
The authors used time-lapse video of mutant zebrafish to study the glial cell movement. Movies of translucent live zebrafish that lacked Schwann cells showed that oligodendrocytes left the central nervous system to wrap peripheral nerves with myelin — effectively attempting to compensate for the missing Schwann cells.
"This new observation is not only relevant to normal nerve function, but also to potential causes of disease in the peripheral nervous system. We're still unsure as to exactly how foreign glial cells interact with the other system. Do they help heal or do they act as a toxin?" said Bruce Trapp, PhD, at the Cleveland Clinic, who is unaffiliated with the study. "Knowing the mechanisms that anatomically restrict peripheral and central nervous system glia could help develop therapies that treat or prevent certain nervous system diseases."
Appel and his colleagues said that future investigations are needed to determine how different glial cells communicate to restrict their movements between nervous systems, and whether oligodendrocyte myelin can fully substitute for Schwann cell myelin on motor nerves.
Study video and images are available upon request.
The research was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and a zebrafish initiative funded by the Vanderbilt University Academic Venture Capital Fund.
The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of more than 40,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system. Appel can be reached at email@example.com.
Kat Snodgrass | EurekAlert!
Rochester scientists discover gene controlling genetic recombination rates
23.04.2018 | University of Rochester
One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
23.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.04.2018 | Trade Fair News