Photo: Researcher David Lyons in his lab at the MS Society Edinburgh Centre for MS Research.

New research shows excess myelin goes to the wrong part of nerve

Researchers at the MS Society Edinburgh Centre for MS Research have found that extra myelin can be sent to the wrong part of the nerve – an important insight for MS treatments.

Professor David Lyons and his team looked at what happens in zebrafish and mice when myelin making cells (known as oligodendrocytes) make more myelin than the nerve fibres need.

Too much of a good thing?

Professor Lyons, MS researcher at the University of Edinburgh and lead author, said: “We were surprised to find that when more oligodendrocytes and myelin were present than the nerve fibre needed, the excess myelin was sent to the wrong part of the nerve.”

It’s important to consider where extra myelin ends up, because treatments for MS often involve increasing myelin production to repair damage done to nerve fibres.

How could this affect future treatments?

Professor Lyons continued: “One of the key goals in MS research is to develop therapies to increase the number of oligodendrocytes and improve myelin production. It will therefore be important for future studies to look at the consequences of this misplaced excess myelin on the health and function of the nervous system.”

Dr David Schley, our Research Communications Manager said: “We’re really excited to be supporting Professor Lyons’ work. There are more than 100,000 people living with MS in the UK and many still don’t have any treatment options.

“Finding treatments to repair myelin is one of our key research priorities. Insights like this are really valuable, and take us a step closer to developing safe and effective treatments to stop MS”.

More work needed

Although this research tells us more about myelin repair in an animal model, future research needs to look at whether extra myelin changes the way the nervous system works, and if the results are also true for humans.

> Read the full research paper on the Science Direct website