Methods of assessing myelin and myelination
Oregon Health and Science University
Dr. Simkins was born in Utah but has lived across the United States. He earned his bachelor’s degree in cellular...
The myelin sheath surrounding the axons of neurons is an evolutionary development in vertebrates that facilitates rapid action potential transmission. In the central nervous system, myelin is formed by cellular projections of specialized glial cells called oligodendrocytes. The vital role for myelin in the central nervous system is demonstrated by the disabilities resulting from its damage, such as in multiple sclerosis. In contrast, myelin in the peripheral nervous system is formed by a separate specialized glial cell type, Schwann cells. The effect of peripheral myelin damage is demonstrated in the symptoms of a variety of neuropathies, such as Charcot-Maire-Toothdisease. Despite great advances in the last several decades, much remains unknown regarding myelination in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Questions that remain unanswered range from how these specialized myelinating cells (oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells) migrate from their site of origin to their final resting location, to how they choose which axons to myelinate and the factors involved in the maintenance of myelin once it is formed. An exciting field in myelin research seeks to understand the potential for damaged myelin to reform or be repaired which would be of direct relevance in many human diseases. Central to the study of the above-listed questions are techniques in assessing myelin itself and how myelination occurs. This section will serve as a repository of methods used to study myelin in order to answer these and other important questions.