Thursday, November 09, 2006

Myelination process is studied

LOS ANGELES Nov. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say a discovery concerning myelin formation could have a major impact on the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Jonah Chan, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, said the discovery might also be important in treating peripheral neuropathies and spinal cord injuries.

Myelin, composed of lipid fat and protein, serves as an electrically insulating layer surrounding neurons in the body.
Chan showed a protein, Par-3, is at the base of the myelination process. The protein becomes localized to one side of the myelin-forming cells, known as Schwann cells, upon contact with the axon that is to be myelinated.

Par-3, the scientists found, acts almost as a molecular scaffold to set-up an "organizing center." which brings together key proteins essential for myelination, in particular a receptor for a molecule secreted by the neurons.

Chan collaborated with Michel Cayouette and researchers at the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal in Canada.

The research appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of the journal Science.
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