Public release date: 24-Nov-2009
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Contact: Ed Hayward
Boston College

Early protein processes crucial to formation and layering of myelin membrane

Boston College researchers provide new view of myelin structure and stability
Chestnut Hill, Mass. (11/24/2009) – New findings from an international team of researchers probing the nerve-insulating myelin sheath were bolstered by the work of Boston College biologists, who used x-rays to uncover how mutations affect the structure of myelin, a focal point of research in multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders.

The findings were central to the group's broader conclusion that a set of protein processes required in the early-stage conversion of glucose into fatty acids are critical to the proper formation and layering of myelin membrane, the researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Boston College Professor of Biology Daniel Kirschner, Senior Research Associate Hideyo Inouye, graduate student Adrienne Luoma, and undergraduate Michelle Crowther partnered with Dutch, Italian, Swiss and Japanese scientists. The research group looked at the composition of myelin lipids for clues about their role in myelin structure and stability, Kirschner said. Myelin sheaths surround the axons of neurons and are considered critical to the proper functioning of the nervous system.