Plan B. Oligodendrocytes (green) appear to deliver energy-rich metabolites to motor neurons (purple) during periods of high energy usage. Image: Alan Hoofring, Medical Arts Design Section, National Institutes of Health.
Oligodendrocytes are the tuners of the central nervous system, which busily insulate the nerves' axons to optimize the performance of the brain and spinal cord.
But when energy levels drop, these cellular handymen take on a second job. Oligodendrocytes supply nerve cells with energy-rich metabolites such as lactate to help keep the power on.
Recent studies suggest however that these intercellular deliveries might be interrupted in people with ALS. And, this break in the metabolic supply chain may contribute to the onset and progression of the disease.
ALS Today's Michelle Pflumm PhD talked to Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine neuroscientist Klaus-Armin Nave PhD about oligodendrocytes, their emerging role in ALS and potential treatment strategies going forward.
To learn more, check out our watchlist: The oligodendrocyte, a new player in ALS?
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Lee, Y. et al. (2012) Oligodendroglia metabolically support axons and contribute to neurodegeneration. Nature, doi:10.1038/nature11314. Abstract | Full Text
Kang, S.H., Fukaya, M., Yang, J.K., Rothstein, J.D. and Bergles DE. (2010) NG2+ CNS glial progenitors remain committed to the oligodendrocyte lineage in postnatal life and following neurodegeneration. Neuron 68(4), 668-681. Abstract | Full Text
Griffiths, I. et al. (1998) Axonal swellings and degeneration in mice lacking the major proteolipid of myelin. Science 280, 1610-1613. Abstract | Full Text
Nave, K.A. (2010) Myelination and the trophic support of long axons. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11(4), 275-283. Abstract | Full Text