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COLLEGE STATION, TX - A collaborative study in
which Dr. Jianrong Li of the Texas A&M University College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) was one of the
contributing authors has made the cover of this month's issue of
the prestigious scientific journal Nature Neuroscience.
The study's main finding is the identification of a protein
called GPR17 and its potential to serve as a therapeutic target for
the treatment of demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis
(MS), which affects 2 million people worldwide and is characterized
by damage to myelin, the insulating layer of axons (long, slender
projections of nerve cells that transmit nerve impulses).
The study explains how GPR17 is involved in controlling the
maturation of myelin-forming cells, oligodendrocytes, in the
central nervous system (CNS), a process that is poorly understood.
The main function of these cells is to produce a myelin sheath
around axons. Myelin production or myelination is crucial for the
normal functioning of the central nervous system.
"Myelin not only speeds up the conduction of nerve impulses
along axons but also keeps axons healthy. Without myelin, axons
will eventually degenerate," Li explained.
The study shows that GPR17 negatively regulates myelin
development-that is, its overexpression inhibits myelination while
its absence results in the early onset of myelination during CNS
Specifically, Li's group showed that the overexpression of this
protein in a culture of oligodendrocyte precursor cells arrests
"GPR17 is upregulated in human MS plaques and in animal models
of MS," said Li. "In many MS cases, there are oligodendrocyte
precursor cells in plaques, yet these cells fail to mature and
myelinate axons. Therefore, it is of great interest to test whether
blocking this receptor promotes myelin repair and functional
The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843
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