Myelin is wrapped around axons (nerves) and serves to protect the nerves and to enhance nerve transmission. Myelin, as well as the underlying axon, is a target of damage in MS. Myelin is made up of fats and proteins. We continue to study how a myelin protein, called MAG, and a newly identified cousin, called Netrin, can communicate with the axon (nerve fiber) and protect it from damage (Nguyen et al J. Neuroscience, 2009).
Understanding how myelin protects axons could lead to novel ways of protecting or repairing nerves without necessarily having to make new myelin. This research is now unraveling the molecular details of how this crosstalk between MAG and axons occurs. Collaborators in this work include Dr. Peter Calabresi.
MAG (top row) prevents axonal degeneration that ensues overtime as seen in the control (lower row).