In this section, from time to time, we will highlight research taking place locally within Ottawa and the surrounding communities. Research highlighted here may help progress towards finding a cure for MS or discover new therapies and approaches that will play a role in the relief of symptoms of MS.
A Model System to Grow Oligodendrocytes
In the first local highlight, we present recent research performed by a team at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. This research group has developed a model system that allows them to study oligodendrocytes in cultured dishes. Oligodendrocytes are cells in the brain that produce the fatty protective layer (called myelin) around neurons (cells that carry nerve impulses). Slow degeneration of myelin leads to neuromuscular disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis. By studying these cells in cultured dishes, Scientists can more directly observe how these cells behave and interact. They can also understand the triggers needed to make these cells produce myelin and directly test how these cells respond to drugs and other treatments. With the fast-paced advances in MS-drug therapy, this oligodendrocyte model system could be very important in determining which drugs are better suited for clinical trials.
Dr. Rashmi Kothary of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute leads a world class program investigating the molecular events in oligodendrocyte myelination and myelin repair. He recently received the Dr. J. David Grimes Research Career Achievement Award in 2011 for his contributions toward understanding how nerve fibers regenerate myelin in Multiple Sclerosis as well as genetic mechanisms in other neurological disorders. Dr. Kothary is a strong mentor for many younger scientists and trainees in the field of MS and is a highly valued member of the local Ottawa research community. For a more detailed biography of Dr. Kothary, CLICK HERE, and for details on his Research Awards, CLICK HERE.
Ryan O'Meara, a Ph.D. student training under Dr. Kothary's mentorship has developed a model system to grow oligodendrocytes in culture dishes. Traditionally this has been very difficult to do. The contribution by Dr. Kothary's team may provide a fast way to screen candidate drugs for treating MS.
Ryan O'Meara's Description of the Work
Oligodendrocytes are the cell type which provides the myelin in the brain – the fatty material that is lost in Multiple Sclerosis. This fatty material is important for the survival and function of neurons, which are the cell type that allows for communication between the brain and the body. It is important for researchers to learn about this cell type, in order to test and develop new drugs that may promote regeneration of myelin in Multiple Sclerosis.
Researchers often extract cells from mice and study them in Petri dishes to help understand their basic biological processes. A major hurdle in oligodendrocyte research is that there is little published information on methods for extracting and growing these cells from mice. Our lab has recently published a method that allows for fast, easy isolation of this cell type for their observation in Petri dishes. In addition, the new protocol describes methods on how to combine neurons and oligodendrocytes together to observe how they interact to produce myelin.
One significant use of this cell technique is for screening new drugs to determine their effect on oligodendrocytes. Delivery of drugs to the oligodendrocytes will lend insight into whether these medications play a positive effect on the production of myelin. As many new MS drugs are of the oral type, this method would be a fast and easy way to test the effect of these therapies directly on this afflicted cell type.
This research has also been published in a video format.
A very interesting look at the laboratory process described above is shown in a video publication of the method. CLICK HERE to view the video.
Highlights of Other Research
Selected research activities towards finding a cure or developing therapies reported on the MS Society National Web Site are highlighted here in this section. For the most up-to-date research alerts, please go the MS Society News in Research page.
March 14, 2012