What does myelin produce in the CNS

28.01.2021 19:01

Blood vessels control the development of the nervous system

Dr. Eva Maria Wellnitz Science communication of the medical faculty
University Medicine Mannheim

Signals from the vascular system are essential for specifying a nerve cell population

Current research from the European Center for Angioscience (ECAS) at the Medical Faculty Mannheim at the University of Heidelberg once again shows that blood vessels not only perform passive transport functions by using the blood to supply the body's tissues with oxygen and nutrients and to remove degradation products. Rather, the vascular system itself becomes the focus of disease development.

The scientists around Professor Dr. Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar have provided new evidence that blood vessels can also regulate and control organ functions. In a paper recently published in Nature Neuroscience, they report on a "cross-talk" between cells of the nervous system and cells of the blood vessel system, which ensures that neural progenitor cells are specified as oligodendrocyte progenitor cells.

The central nervous system (CNS) not only contains cells of neural origin such as neurons and glial cells, which arise from neural progenitor cells, integrate into neural networks and thus build a functional nervous system. The CNS is also pervaded by blood vessels. In fact, the brain is one of the most vascularized organs in our body. During development, blood vessels grow at the same time that neural progenitor cells differentiate into the cell populations of the brain.

Oligodendrocytes are components of the central nervous system. They ensure the electrical conductivity of nerve cells by producing a lipid-rich biomembrane, the myelin, which surrounds the nerve fibers in the form of the so-called myelin sheaths and insulates them electrically. Oligodendrocytes arise from oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, which in turn arise from neural progenitor cells.

If the formation of oligodendrocyte precursor cells and their subsequent maturation into myelin-producing oligodendrocytes is disturbed, this can lead to neurological development disorders, just as the demyelination of nerve fibers or impaired remyelination leads to neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

In the current work, the scientists from Mannheim investigated how exactly oligodendrocyte precursor cells are specified during the development into such. They were able to show that signals from the vascular system, which grows in close proximity to the neural progenitor cells, are essential for this specification.

“We were able to observe that neural progenitor cells send signals to the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels. And these in turn respond by sending back a signal that instructs the progenitor cells to specify themselves in the direction of the oligodendrocyte line, ”says Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar, senior author of the highly published work on which several research groups from the ECAS and the medical department are working Faculty Mannheim are involved.

With this work, the scientists were able to demonstrate a real bi-directional cooperation between the nervous system and the vascular system, which acts as a critical regulator of the development of the all-important oligodendrocytes.

At the European Center for Angioscience, Professor Ruiz de Almodóvar and her “Vascular Dysfunction” department research the molecular communication between the nervous system and the blood vessel system and is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) with an ERC Consolidator Grant.

Scientific contact:

Prof. Dr. Carmen Ruiz de Almodovar
Vascular dysfunction
European Center for Angioscience (ECAS)
Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University
Ludolf-Krehl-Strasse 13-17
D-68167 Mannheim
Phone +49 (0) 621 / 383-71625
[email protected]

Original publication:

Oligodendrocyte precursor cell specification is regulated by bidirectional neural progenitor – endothelial cell cross-talk
Isidora Paredes, Jose Ricardo Vieira, Bhavin Shah, Carla F. Ramunno, Julia Dyckow, Heike Adler, Melanie Richter, Geza Schermann, Evangelia Giannakouri, Lucas Schirmer, Hellmut G. Augustin and Carmen Ruiz de Almodovar
Nature Neuroscience

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