Could TROPICAL FISH hold the key to multiple sclerosis? Transparent zebrafish give insight into how nerves work
Zebrafish offer vital insights into the disease that occurs when the nerve sheath, myelin, breaks down.
Myelin is critical for allowing nerve impulses to be transmitted enabling people to walk, talk and see.
Studying the fish revealed cells have a very short time period in which to generate this protective coating.
This insight could help with the development of new treatments.
Although MS patients have an abundance of oligodendrocytes in their brains, these fail to produce sufficient myelin to bring about repair.
The Edinburgh team used zebrafish in the study because they share more than 80 per cent of the genes associated with human diseases.
The tiny fish also exhibit responses to drugs that are very similar to those of humans.
Young zebrafish are transparent, which allows researchers to look directly into their living nervous system without surgical or physical intervention.
Dr David Lyons, of the university’s Centre for Neuroregeneration, said: ‘To enhance myelin repair, we will need to improve either MS patients’ ability to make myelin during the short time in which they have to do this, or find a way to allow them to produce myelin for a longer period of time.’
The study, which is published in Developmental Cell, was carried out in the Centre for Neuroregeneration in collaboration with the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.