Development of a stem cell-derived model of myelination
Owen Gwydion James, a postdoctoral researcher (Chandran Lab), has recently published his first first-author paper in Developmental Cell.
Their work has used stem cells from human skin samples to develop 3D models of myelination that will help the study of neurological conditions.
Nerve cells are found throughout the body, and connect to each other through long fibres called axons. These axons are insulated by a myelin sheath which allows electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve cells. This coating can break down in neurological diseases.
What they did
Skin cells were reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which have the ability to be turned into other cell types – in this case – nerve cells. These cells were then grown into 3D structures, where functioning myelin began developing around the axons.
This healthy model was then compared to another 3D model, in which the originating stem cells were taken from a patient with a genetic mutation that affects myelination. This diseased model had traits consistent with the disease.
Currently, there is a lack of reliable tools to study myelination at the cellular level, especially using human cells. This paper has built human iPSC-derived 3D models that reliably generate mature myelin in a relatively short amount of time. This will hopefully shed more light on the processes of myelin formation and function in human health and disease.