Blood-Clotting Protein Prevents Repair in The Brain

Source: Gladstone Institutes

Summary: Researchers have uncovered a new therapeutic strategy which may help in myelin sheath repair and to the surprise, it is linked to a protein in the blood.

Take an example of a bare wire, without its plastic coating, is exposed to the elements and risks being degraded. Without insulation, it may not conduct electricity as well. Just imagine this bare wire inside your brain. This is what happens in many of the nervous system diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, stroke and neonatal injuries. Same as the bare wire, the nerve fibers in the brain lose their protective wrap, the myelin sheath, and become extremely unprotected. This exposes the nerve cells to their environment and decreases their ability to transmit electric signals which results in impaired cognition, sensation and movement.

In such nervous diseases, the brain may activate some mechanisms to repair myelin but unable to complete the process. For years, researchers have been trying to understand this repair mechanism which is incomplete. But Katerina Akassoglou and her research team from Gladstone Institutes have uncovered a new therapeutic strategy which may help in myelin sheath repair and to the surprise, it is linked to a protein in the blood. The findings were published in the scientific journal Neuron.

Fibrinogen prevents myelin repair

Myelin repairing cells already exist in the central nervous system (CNS). They are the adult stem cells that travel to the damaged sites and mature into myelin-producing cells. However, this process is blocked in many neurological diseases. Researchers have found that when a blood-clotting protein, fibrinogen leaks into the CNS, it stops adult stem cells from transforming into the mature cells that produce myelin and prevents repair causing inflammation which further leads to brain damage. In this study, they also found another unexpected effect of blood leaking into the brain. These findings could help researchers to develop novel therapies by targeting fibrinogen and treat many diseases associated with myelin.

Katerina Akassoglou, a senior investigator said, “We thought it might be important to look instead at the toxic environment outside the cell, where blood proteins accumulate”, “We realized that targeting the blood protein fibrinogen could open up the possibility for new types of therapies to promote brain repair.”

More Information: Mark A. Petersen et al, “Fibrinogen Activates BMP Signaling in Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Cells and Inhibits Remyelination after Vascular Damage”, Neuron, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.10.008

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