Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Novel strategies to enhance intrinsic repair following demyelination

Principal Investigator: Dr. Valerie Verge

Affiliation: University of Saskatchewan

Term: April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2019

Funding: $297,783

Keywords: axon injury, remyelination, inflammation, macrophage

Summary:

  • Electrical stimulation and intermittent reduction of oxygen in the spinal cord of injured animals enhances the inherent ability of the nervous system to repair itself.
  • Whether these two methods would be beneficial in multiple sclerosis (MS) is unknown.
  • The research team will:
    • Use models of MS which result in demyelination to test whether electrical stimulation and periods of low oxygen levels would result in myelin repair.

Project Description:

By briefly reducing the amount of oxygen available for breathing and/or using short bursts of electrical stimulation, Dr. Valerie Verge’s laboratory has managed to improve the nervous system’s self-repair mechanism in rats. In her latest project, Dr. Verge’s research team will test whether these two techniques can boost the spinal cord’s ability to repair nerve and myelin damage in mice. Similar experiments to improve regeneration will be carried out in mice with an MS-like disease. To date, the research team has completed studies showing that brief electrical stimulation of demyelinating neurons changes the role of harmful immune cells called macrophages from a pro-inflammatory response to a pro-repair response. Electrical stimulation also recruits myelin-producing cells called oligodendrocyte precursor cells and promotes remyelination. Ongoing work will examine the impact of briefly reducing oxygen levels to enhance repair in MS. Dr. Verge is hopeful that the stimulating treatments will enhance remyelination, while also protecting vulnerable and damaged axons – a goal of great importance for those living with MS.

Potential Impact: Through electrical stimulation and briefly reducing oxygen levels, the nervous system can be therapeutically manipulated to enhance its ability to self-repair and as such holds promise for those suffering from MS.

Project Status: In Progress