The Trish Foundation is supporting a three-year Project Grant awarded to Dr Junhua Xiao, The University of Melbourne titled, “How nerve cells influence myelin repair in the brain”.
Dr Xiao has made excellent progress in the first year of the project grant. She and her team have successfully generated laboratory models where the TrkB gene has been removed from neurons (nerve cells of the brain). When these models experienced demyelination, she found that removal of TrkB in the corpus callosum (a region that connects the two hemispheres of the brain) resulted in fewer pre-existing and newly generated mature myelin producing cells, and also resulted in more precursor myelin producing cells, compared to those models that still had TrkB. In the cerebral cortex (the outer tissue of the two hemispheres of the brain), removal of TrkB did not influence the production of newly generated myelin producing cells but did reduce the amount of pre-existing mature myelin producing cells. These findings suggest that TrkB is required for the formation of mature myelin producing cells in the brain and suggest that remyelination in different regions of the brain is regulated differently.
Dr Xiao and her team are currently determining to what extent TrkB influences remyelination capacity. Following this work, she will determine how TrkB promotes remyelination. Understanding the details of myelin repair will help identify therapeutic targets to promote remyelination.