Our lab studies factors that control the maturation of oligodendrocytes, the myelinating cells of the central nervous system, from stem cells through to myelination.
In the central nervous system, oligodendrocytes synthesize myelin as an extension of their plasma membranes. This myelin wraps axons and facilitates rapid and efficient conduction of nervous impulses as well as axonal nourishment and protection. Destruction of myelin through injury, such as birth injury leading to cerebral palsy, or disease, such as multiple sclerosis or HIV, causes loss of motor and cognitive function.
Oligodendrocyte precursors and stem cells remain in the CNS following the pathology and are potentially capable of forming mature oligodendrocytes and then myelin. However, their maturation is severely limited. Reasons for this include processes such as oxidative stress and inflammation which signal to inhibitors present in the area that impede maturation. Our goal is to identify factors in the CNS that inhibit the development of mature oligodendrocytes both during development and disease. We have identified several key signaling factors that regulate developmental myelination and are increased during demyelinating disease.
On-going areas of investigation in the lab include: 1) The role of white matter loss and demyelination in HIV-associated neurocognitive deficits. 2) Factors which limit myelination in perinatal white matter injury. 3) The role of lipid signaling in developmental myelination and remyelination following demyelinating disease.