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Myelin Formation, Term Paper Example

Pages: 3

Words: 756

Term Paper

Introduction

Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital found that banked human neural stem cells can produce functional myelin in mice with stark symptoms of myelin loss (Back). The study findings are crucial to stem cell research because it allows medical professionals to administer stem cell therapy to patients who are diagnosed with myelin disease long before the patient start showing symptoms. This critical analysis will examine the significance of the aforementioned findings by evaluating its effect on patients who are diagnosed with myelin disease.

Myelin and Study Significance

Myelin is the fatty padding which surrounds newly-developed nerve fibers (Uchida, Chen and Dohse). As such, myelin is indispensable to healthy brain function. The most common myelin disorders include sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Both type of brain diseases are exceptionally disabling and are often fatal.

Study author, Stephen A. Back utilized a transgenic mouse model to mimic myelin diseases. The premise of the study was to demonstrate that progressive neurological deterioration happens because the brain is deficient of a key protein required to produce normal myelin (Back). Within that setting, Back (2012) tested true human brain derived stem cells and their ability to produce new myelin. In addition, Back (2012) demonstrated that progressive senility is often the result of damaged myelin within the human brain. His findings indicate that alterations in a person’s white brain matter can leave the myelin susceptible to damage. This damage can either result in a myelin disease, such as sclerosis, or in dementia, in the case of geriatric patients. Therefore, if a key protein responsible for producing healthy myelin can be reproduced, many of these diseases can be prevented (Uchida, Chen and Dohse).

Back (2012) stated that numerous studies that focused on mice found that healthy stem cells thrive in a newborn brain. In fact, stem cells in a healthy newborn brain typically mature into myelin-forming cells. Stem cells, therefore, contain qualities which allow them to respond to cues from the brain’s white matter that more myelin-forming cells need to be reproduced (Uchida, Chen and Dohse). Back’s (2012) study is unique and significant, because it tested the possibility of stem cells’ ability to produce myelin-forming cells in the brain of an older person, or a person who has been diagnosed with a myelin disease. As such, the researcher transplanted stem cells into the brain of an older mouse that has been diagnosed with a myelin disease. The findings indicate that despite the mouse’s steady health decline, the stem cells survived and were able to produce functional myelin cells (Back). In addition, new myelin cells were formed only weeks after being transplanted. That means that patients diagnosed with a myelin disease could potentially show signs of improvement after only a few weeks of treatments (Gupta, Henry and Strober). Furthermore, newly transplanted stem cells are visibly detected with an MRI without being subject to any modifications, such as being injected with dyes or iron particles. In other words, tracking the progress of newly transplanted stem cells will no longer be an uncomfortable and invasive procedure for patients. Back (2012) explained that this is possible because the MRI signal is derived from the white matter which has been altered by the newly produced myelin.

Because the MRI is able to detect brain signals that are consistent with myelin formation, medical professionals no longer have to confirm the formation of new myelin through brain biopsies or wait until the patient has died to perform an autopsy (Gupta, Henry and Strober).

In essence, these new findings make it possible for patients with myelin diseases to receive effective treatment that could ultimately treat, or reverse the effects of their diseases. Back (2012) states; however, that although this recent discovery is cause for great hope, each patient’s condition, with regards to severity and progression, varies. As such, the full effects of such myelin therapies are still unclear.

Stephen A. Back

Study author, Stephen A. Back M.D., PH.D., is an associate professor at the Oregon Health and Science University. In 2010 Back received the Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award for his groundbreaking work in the field of cellular and molecular causes. This award is given to scientists who demonstrate extraordinary excellence in an area of neurological research.

References

Back, Stephen A. “Stem Cells;Human neural stem cells study offers new hope for children with fatal brain diseases.” Stem Cell Week (2012): 143.

Gupta, Nalin, et al. “Neural Stem Cell Engraftment and Myelination in the Human Brain.” Science Translational Medicine (2012).

Uchida, Nobuko, et al. “Human Neural Stem Cells Induce Functional Myelination in Mice with Severe Dysmyelination.” Science Translational Medicine (2012): 21-34.

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