February 25, 2021
2 min read

National MS Society recognizes Hopkins neuroscientist for myelin repair research

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Dwight E. Bergles, PhD, received the Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research at the ACTRIMS Forum for his research in oligodendrocyte precursor cells, which are involved in remyelination, according to a press release.

According to the release, the cells “hold the key to finding ways to promote myelin repair and restore function for people living with MS.”

“Our studies have focused on defining the behavior of oligodendrocyte progenitors in the adult brain,” Bergles, a neuroscientist in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience and the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Healio Neurology. “These cells play a central role in remyelination, as they are capable of regenerating oligodendrocytes, and are currently a primary target of therapies designed to promote remyelination in MS.”

Bergles’ research found, for the first time, that oligodendrocyte precursor cells “form direct connections and communicate with nerve cells in the brain,” determining whether the cells remain dormant or mature into specialized cells that produce myelin. He was also part of a team that found that oligodendrocyte precursor cells “may be co-opted by the immune system in MS” to perpetuate the immune attacks on the brain and spinal cord that are characteristic of MS.

“These studies have provided new insight into the process of myelin repair in the gray matter of the cortex, an area commonly affected in patients with MS, revealing that pattern of myelin changes after a demyelinating event and that there are substantial differences in the ability of cortical areas to support oligodendrogenesis and remyelination,” Bergles said.

Bergles is also examining why these cells “often fail to regenerate mature myelin-making cells in later phases of MS,” according to the release. Understanding why this occurs “may accelerate development of new therapeutic strategies for overcoming these barriers.”

“These studies may provide us with blueprint for how to revitalize oligodendrocyte precursor cells, so that their reparative potential can be maximized to restore function and prevent neurodegeneration in MS,” Bergles said.The Barancik Prize aims to “recognize and encourage exceptional innovation and originality in scientific research” that is relevant to MS, according to the release. The award is administered through the National MS Society.