Oligodendrocytes under the microscope

Global research partnership aims to understand ageing and myelin repair

We've partnered with the British Council to fund a new collaboration between researchers from Cambridge and Israel to investigate the effects of brain stiffening on myelin repair.

Professor Robin Franklin and Dr Kevin Chalut, from the University of Cambridge, will work with Dr Amnon Buxboim from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to investigate myelin repair in MS.

It's one of seven projects focusing on ageing research which are being funded as part of an initiative called BIRAX, a £10 million programme to support UK-Israeli research.

Investigating brain stiffness 

The research will focus on special stem cells in the brain called oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) that are able to produce myelin-making cells. OPCs are important for repairing myelin – the fatty coating that surrounds our nerves and is damaged in MS. 

But as we age, this repair process becomes less efficient. And just like muscles and joints can become stiff, the brain becomes increasingly stiff. This causes the OPCs to lose their ability to produce working myelin-making cells.

This project will help to identify how a stiff brain causes these harmful changes in OPCs as we age. Learning why OPCs lose their ability to produce myelin-making cells will help us understand how the effects of age might be reversed. This could provide new targets for MS treatments.

Tackling global challenges

British Ambassador to Israel, Mr Neil Wigan said:

“I am excited that seven new projects have been selected for the first call of BIRAX Ageing, the latest phase of our flagship science research programme.

"These cutting-edge research collaborations not only position the UK and Israel at the forefront of ageing research worldwide, but also reaffirm the close connection between British and Israeli academic communities and establishments. Through these meaningful and sustainable collaborations, we can together tackle universal ongoing challenges.”

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MS researcher at work in lab, using a pipette