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Scientists Discover Vitamin C Promotes Oligodendrocytes Generation and Remyelination
Update time: 2018-03-22
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Myelin sheaths play important roles in the neuronal functions in the central nervous system (CNS). For example, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), also known as “undead cancer”, is a sort of the demyelinating diseases. In MS disease, the myelin sheaths is damaged by immune cells and the myelin regeneration process is blocked.

Currently available treatments for MS all aimed to modulate the immune responses. These treatments are effective in reducing the relapse rate and formation of new lesions, however, they have limited effects in preventing the progression of disability. Thus promoting the recovery of myelin sheaths and neuronal functions are the new goals of MS therapy.

Oligodendrocyte (OLs) form myelin sheaths by wrapping around the axons in CNS. A research group in the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (SIMMCAS) found that Vitamin C (Vc) greatly enhance the oligodendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) to Oligodendrocyte (OL) differentiation and maturation.

The research group established a high-throughput screening system to validate that small molecule compounds might promote the OPC to OL differentiation.

They disclosed that Vc facilitates the formation of myelin sheaths in OPC-neuron co-culture. In addition, Vc also promotes the repair of the myelin sheaths in vivo and provides significant therapeutic effect in a cuprizone-mediated demyelination animal model.

Interestingly, Vc’s function in promoting OPC differentiation is not related to its antioxidant activity. And an intracellular rather than an extracellular mechanism might be involved.

Considering the safe use of Vc as a dietary supplement for many years, it might also be used as an alternative medicine for CNS demyelinating diseases. The study result has been published in Glia.

The research group was supervised by Prof. XIE Xin of SIMMCAS. Prof. XIE’s graduate student GUO Yu-e o is the first author.

Prof. XIE’s group has dedicated in studying the mechanisms involved in OPC to OL differentiation for a few years, and has discovered that Kappa opioid receptor is critically involved in OL generation and remyelination and may act as a new therapeutic target for the treatment of MS (Nature Communications, 2016;7:13594).

The study was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Link to the article:;jsessionid=F8039BF97630C7DB81300E4DB2F4EDBD.f03t03

Contact person:
Prof. XIE Xin

(Credit: XIE Xin; Editor: PAN Peihua)

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