Cell self-devouring

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Autophagy, which literally means “self-devouring”, is a natural mechanism by which the cell destroys unnecessary or dysfunctional components. The cellular components are then properly recycled.

In a collaboration between a Louisville and a Miami University School of Medicine, scientists found that autophagy is essential for the development and survival of myelin.

Myelin is an isolating sheet that warps the neurons and allows faster electrical conduction. It is necessary for information (movement or sensation) to travel along the neurons.

Spinal cord injury leads to the massive destruction of myelination. Neurons might remain intact, but without proper myelination they cannot function normally.

Enhancement of remyelination is therefore a very interesting target for function recovery after spinal cord injury.

Recycling is necessary
First, the team disrupted autophagy. This led to a decrease of proper myelination. On a second stage the team did the exact opposite: they increased autophagy. This led to an enhancement of myelination.

This clearly indicates that autophagy is necessary for myelination. However, more interestingly, it also indicates that autophagy may provide an attractive target for myelin repair after spinal cord injury.


This study was published in the journal Glia.


Source:“Autophagy is essential for oligodendrocyte differentiation, survival, and proper myelination” by Bankston AN, Forston MD, Howard RM, Andres KR, Smith AE, Ohri SS, Bates ML, Bunge MB, Whittemore SR. Published in June 2019 in the journal Glia.