3 August 2019

Encouraging results from recent study focused on promoting myelin regeneration

Perron Institute researchers Dr Alex Tang and Associate Professor Jenny Rodger have contributed to recently published research which suggests that non-invasive electromagnetic therapy could be used to boost myelin regeneration in the brain.

This has potential implications for treating demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Demyelinating diseases are conditions that result in damage to the protective covering (myelin sheath) that surrounds nerve fibres in the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. This damage impairs the conduction of signals in the affected nerves, causing nerve impulses to slow or even stop. In turn, this reduction causes deficiency in sensation, movement, cognition or other functions depending on which nerves are involved.

The recent collaborative study led by Dr Carlie Cullen, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in neuroscience at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania found that low intensity transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) increased the survival and maturation of cells that are responsible for myelin regeneration (oligodendrocyte progenitor cells) in the central nervous system.

Importantly, rTMS did not cause new cells to be born, but rather increased the survival and myelin production of existing cells.

This work has been translated to a clinical trial based in Hobart to study the effect of rTMS in MS.

The research published in the scientific journal Glia, has been funded by grants from MS Research Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science, MSWA, MS Angels, the Macquarie Group Foundation and the Penn Foundation.

University of Western Australia Associate Professor Jenny Rodger heads the brain plasticity research stream at the Perron Institute as the MSWA Senior Research Fellow.

Dr Alex Tang is a Perron Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow and a lecturer in UWA’s School of Biological Sciences.

Brain plasticity research at the Perron Institute is generously supported by MSWA and the National Health and Medical Research Council.