A pinboard by
Lulu Xing

Postdoctoral researcher, Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, Monash University


The discovery of endogenous neural stem cells in the adult mammalian brain with their ability to produce different brain cell types has raised intense scientific interest and the hope for novel therapies of neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The range of neurological symptoms that MS patients experience are all related to a loss of the fatty myelin sheath, leaving the nerve cell fibers unprotected. The body is able to regenerate myelin by a rare type of glial cells called NG2 glia, but this diminishes with age because of NG2 glia depletion. There is now strong evidence that neural stem cells have the tremendous potential to repair damaged myelin (Xing et al., Journal of Neuroscience, 2014). In the current research, when NG2 glia are depleted from the brain in mice, endogenous neural stem cells were activated to efficiently regenerate a new cell population that behaves like NG2 glia. Since there is still no cure for MS, my research raises hopes that MS could one day be repaired by developing new strategies aimed towards mobilising neural stem cells to promote effective regeneration of myelin and NG2 glia.


Inhibition of Gli1 mobilizes endogenous neural stem cells for remyelination.

Abstract: Enhancing repair of myelin is an important but still elusive therapeutic goal in many neurological disorders. In multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory demyelinating disease, endogenous remyelination does occur but is frequently insufficient to restore function. Both parenchymal oligodendrocyte progenitor cells and endogenous adult neural stem cells resident within the subventricular zone are known sources of remyelinating cells. Here we characterize the contribution to remyelination of a subset of adult neural stem cells, identified by their expression of Gli1, a transcriptional effector of the sonic hedgehog pathway. We show that these cells are recruited from the subventricular zone to populate demyelinated lesions in the forebrain but never enter healthy, white matter tracts. Unexpectedly, recruitment of this pool of neural stem cells, and their differentiation into oligodendrocytes, is significantly enhanced by genetic or pharmacological inhibition of Gli1. Importantly, complete inhibition of canonical hedgehog signalling was ineffective, indicating that the role of Gli1 both in augmenting hedgehog signalling and in retarding myelination is specialized. Indeed, inhibition of Gli1 improves the functional outcome in a relapsing/remitting model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and is neuroprotective. Thus, endogenous neural stem cells can be mobilized for the repair of demyelinated lesions by inhibiting Gli1, identifying a new therapeutic avenue for the treatment of demyelinating disorders.

Pub.: 30 Sep '15, Pinned: 26 Aug '17

Heterogeneous populations of neural stem cells contribute to myelin repair.

Abstract: As ingenious as nature's invention of myelin sheaths within the mammalian nervous system is, as fatal can be damage to this specialized lipid structure. Long-term loss of electrical insulation and of further supportive functions myelin provides to axons, as seen in demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), leads to neurodegeneration and results in progressive disabilities. Multiple lines of evidence have demonstrated the increasing inability of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) to replace lost oligodendrocytes (OLs) in order to restore lost myelin. Much research has been dedicated to reveal potential reasons for this regeneration deficit but despite promising approaches no remyelination-promoting drugs have successfully been developed yet. In addition to OPCs neural stem cells of the adult central nervous system also hold a high potential to generate myelinating OLs. There are at least two neural stem cell niches in the brain, the subventricular zone lining the lateral ventricles and the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus, and an additional source of neural stem cells has been located in the central canal of the spinal cord. While a substantial body of literature has described their neurogenic capacity, still little is known about the oligodendrogenic potential of these cells, even if some animal studies have provided proof of their contribution to remyelination. In this review, we summarize and discuss these studies, taking into account the different niches, the heterogeneity within and between stem cell niches and present current strategies of how to promote stem cell-mediated myelin repair.

Pub.: 30 May '17, Pinned: 26 Aug '17

Targeted ablation of oligodendrocytes induces axonal pathology independent of overt demyelination.

Abstract: The critical role of oligodendrocytes in producing and maintaining myelin that supports rapid axonal conduction in CNS neurons is well established. More recently, additional roles for oligodendrocytes have been posited, including provision of trophic factors and metabolic support for neurons. To investigate the functional consequences of oligodendrocyte loss, we have generated a transgenic mouse model of conditional oligodendrocyte ablation. In this model, oligodendrocytes are rendered selectively sensitive to exogenously administered diphtheria toxin (DT) by targeted expression of the diphtheria toxin receptor in oligodendrocytes. Administration of DT resulted in severe clinical dysfunction with an ascending spastic paralysis ultimately resulting in fatal respiratory impairment within 22 d of DT challenge. Pathologically, at this time point, mice exhibited a loss of ∼26% of oligodendrocyte cell bodies throughout the CNS. Oligodendrocyte cell-body loss was associated with moderate microglial activation, but no widespread myelin degradation. These changes were accompanied with acute axonal injury as characterized by structural and biochemical alterations at nodes of Ranvier and reduced somatosensory-evoked potentials. In summary, we have shown that a death signal initiated within oligodendrocytes results in subcellular changes and loss of key symbiotic interactions between the oligodendrocyte and the axons it ensheaths. This produces profound functional consequences that occur before the removal of the myelin membrane, i.e., in the absence of demyelination. These findings have clear implications for the understanding of the pathogenesis of diseases of the CNS such as multiple sclerosis in which the oligodendrocyte is potentially targeted.

Pub.: 16 Jun '12, Pinned: 26 Aug '17

Adult neural precursor cells from the subventricular zone contribute significantly to oligodendrocyte regeneration and remyelination.

Abstract: Parenchymal oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (pOPCs) are considered the principal cell type responsible for oligodendrogenesis and remyelinaton in demyelinating diseases. Recent studies have demonstrated that neural precursor cells (NPCs) from the adult subventricular zone (SVZ) can also generate new oligodendrocytes after demyelination. However, the relative contribution of NPCs versus pOPCs to remyelination is unknown. We used in vivo genetic fate mapping to assess the behavior of each progenitor type within the corpus callosi (CCs) of mice subjected to cuprizone-induced demyelination. Nestin-CreER(T2) and Pdgfra-CreER(T2) transgenic mice were crossed with fluorescent Cre reporter strains to map the fate of NPCs and pOPCs respectively. In cuprizone-challenged mice, substantial numbers of NPCs migrated into the demyelinated CC and contributed to oligodendrogenesis. This capacity was most prominent in rostral regions adjacent to the SVZ where NPC-derived oligodendrocytes significantly outnumbered those generated from pOPCs. Sixty-two percent of all nodes of Ranvier in this region were flanked by at least one paranode generated from an NPC-derived oligodendrocyte. Remarkably, g-ratios (ratio of the axon diameter to the diameter of the axon plus myelin sheath) of myelinated axons in regions subject to significant NPC-derived remyelination were equivalent to those of unchallenged controls, and immunoelectron microscopy revealed that NPC-derived myelin was significantly thicker than that generated by pOPCs, regardless of axonal caliber. We also demonstrate that a reduced efficiency of remyelination in the caudal CC was associated with long-term impairment in the maturation of oligodendrogenic NPCs but only transient delay in pOPC differentiation. Collectively, our data define a major distinct role for NPCs in remyelination, identifying them as a key target for enhancing myelin repair in demyelinating diseases.

Pub.: 17 Oct '14, Pinned: 26 Aug '17