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GEN News Highlights : Jul 9, 2007

Scientists Show EGFR Protein’s Role in White Matter Repair

EGFR stimulates myelination and remyelination in mice.

Scientists at Children’s National Medical Center demonstrated that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein and its signaling activity are instrumental in myelination and remyelination. Underdeveloped white matter or white matter injuries are linked to conditions including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis.

The researchers used enhanced EGFR to demonstrate the role that this molecule plays as a catalyst to the natural processes of proliferation and migration of progenitor cells, which are integral to white matter development and repair. Inserting enhanced EGFR protein into mouse models showed enhanced myelination/remyelination. Then, using an EGFR protein with reduced biological activity, the researchers found a decrease in myelination/remyelination.

The study also found that progenitor cells in the peri-ventricular zone of the brain contribute to remyelination of white matter lesions and that these lesions naturally prompt progenitor cells to replicate and migrate to the site of the lesion where they are involved in remyelination and functional repair.

The paper will be published in the August issue of Nature Neuroscience.