Maybe myelin isn't the only thing going wrong in MS, but a better understanding of its development should still be important for MS researchers.
NUS scientists discover protein
July 27, 2005 -- Today -- Scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have discovered a novel protein that can provide fundamental clues to better understanding of neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.
The team of scientists from the Department of Anatomy at the Yong Loon Lin School of Medicine at the NUS said that the protein controls the development of specialised brain cells which, in turn, provide insulation to the nerve signalling network.
If these brain cells develop abnormally, the shield that protects nerve fibres can dysfunction or get destroyed. And once this shield is no longer protecting the fibres, nerve pathways are affected and neurological disorders occur.
"It is basically like a short circuit. If a signal comes from the eyes and another comes from the hand, the two can 'crosstalk' and cause hallucinations, for example," said the Department of Anatomy's Dr Liang Fengyi.
These range from symptoms such as muscular weakness and loss of coordination, as in the case of multiple sclerosis, or illogical patterns of thinking and delusions, which characterise schizophrenia. Led by the head of the department Professor Ling Eng Ang and Dr Liang, the nine-member research team believes that its discovery is "fundamental and exciting".
The scientists have named the novel protein "juxtanodin" and feel it is fundamental to understanding the "myelin sheath" that shields the nerve fibres.
"Without this, we cannot talk about therapeutic intervention," said Prof Ling. So does the discovery spell hope for sufferers of neurological diseases?
"That is the million dollar question right now. The discovery has been critical in better understanding the structural components of the central nervous system and major disorders.
"We hope to continue the research and eventually work with hospitals," Prof Ling said. The research was supported by the faculty's Academy Research Fund, A*Star's Biomedical Research Community and DBS.
The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), which is disseminated to more than 25,000 institutions and individuals worldwide.
"We are proud that work of this quality is becoming a regular feature at NUS. Publishing original work from Singapore in PNAS is a major achievement," said Dr John Wong, dean of the Yong Loon Lin School of Medicine.
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