Text Size: a  |   a 

Study Finds that Myelination Relies on Mechanical Stimuli Used for Bone Repair

June 15, 2016

It was discovered that cells that form myelin in the nervous system respond to mechanical stimulation when activating molecules from a specific pathway. These are then transferred to the nucleus, ultimately triggering myelination. These findings from researchers at the University of Buffalo’s Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) may be the key in developing new therapies for myelin diseases like multiple sclerosis. They were published in the Nature Neuroscience journal in the study “YAP and TAZ control peripheral myelination and the expression of laminin receptors in Schwann cells.”

The study’s senior author, M. Laura Feltri, MD, said, “There were hints in previous studies that mechanical properties of tissues could influence the behavior of myelin-forming cells.” Mechanical signaling has already been found and accepted as a major factor in the injury as well as the repair of muscles and bones. Similar to the phenomenon of putting weight on a broken bone in order to generate a mechanical force to improve the formation of a new bone, researchers now know that is occurring with myelin cells as well.

There are two proteins of the Hippo pathway crucially known for mechanical signal transduction by moving into the nucleus that regulates gene expression upon a mechanical stimuli. These were found to be involved in myelin formation. When mice were engineered to lack these proteins genetically, “They showed symptoms of severe peripheral neuropathy, including atrophy, weakness and tremor.”

These findings might just pave the way for the development of new therapies for myelin-related disorders as Feltri said that most medical treatments are based on altering chemical signals. She also stated, “This work says there is another level of control in myelin diseases that we can learn from and possibly exploit in the future.” She continued by saying that in the future they will potentially be able to exploit a tissue’s mechanical properties which include the density, tension or elasticity of some part of the brain or peripheral nerves.