A group at New York University has identified a pool of neural stem cells that could help remyelinate damaged axons in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). At root is the transcription factor GLI1, which the team found limits the growth and differentiation of the stem cells and can be targeted to treat mouse models of MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) likes the strategy's prospects and has awarded NYU $600,000 to turn a tool compound into a therapeutic candidate.
In the study, published last month in Nature, the NYU researchers discovered the pool's function when they found GLI1 puts the brakes on a subset of stem cells in the brain capable of generating new myelin-making cells. Inhibiting GLI1 in mouse models of MS boosted remyelination and recovery of muscle function, suggesting the factor, or the pathway it inhibits, could yield new targets for the disease.
James Salzer, professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU and principal investigator on the study, told BioCentury that while the field