Christian Göritz & Marisa Karow, Karolinska Institutet & Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Stockholm & Munich, Sweden & Germany

Transformation of scar components into myelinating oligodendrocytes - a novel approach to facilitate spinal cord regeneration

Funded in: 2014, 2015, 2016

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Problem: After SCI, scar formation and loss of myelin contribute to impaired functional recovery.

Target: Transformation of scar forming cells into myelin producing cells by cellular reprogramming

Goal: A strategy to promote nerve fiber regeneration and to increase functional recovery following SCI.

Damage to the spinal cord most often leads to a persistent loss of body functions, causing great individual suffering. Today, treatment of spinal cord injury is mostly palliative, with poor prognostic recovery. To improve this and achieve regeneration we need to overcome two major obstacles, namely scar formation and loss of myelin. Scar tissue formed at the injury site is considered to be the main barrier for nerve fiber regeneration and loss of myelin around spared nerve fibers further increases the damage.

Dr. Göritz recently discovered which cells constitute the core part of the scar, following spinal cord injury. Dr. Karow used similar cells from humans and turned them into nerve cells, using cellular reprogramming. Now the researchers combine their research and expertise for this project. Together, they want to turn scar forming cells into cells that are lost following injury but critically needed for producing the myelin around nerve fibers: Oligodendrocytes. With this  strategy hopefully the scar can be reduced and at the same time new myelin provided. The hypothesis will be tested in human cells in vitro and in living mice. The goal is to promote nerve fiber regeneration and increase functional recovery.
The results of this project will hopefully lead to the development of a strategy to increase functional recovery following spinal cord injury.