ScienceDaily (Sep. 26, 2011) — Scientists at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found a way to rapidly produce pure populations of cells that grow into the protective myelin coating on nerves in mice. Their process opens a door to research and potential treatments for multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other demyelinating diseases afflicting millions of people worldwide.

The findings were published in the online issue of Nature Methods on Sept. 25.

"The mouse cells that we utilized, which are pluripotent epiblast stem cells, can make any cell type in body," Paul Tesar, an assistant professor of genetics at Case Western Reserve and senior author of the study, explained. "So our goal was to devise precise methods to specifically turn them into pure populations of myelinating cells, called oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, or OPCs."

Their success holds promise for basic research and beyond.

"The ability of these methods to produce functional cells that restore myelin in diseased mice provides a solid framework for the ability to produce analogous human cells for use in the clinic," said Robert H. Miller, vice dean for research at the school of medicine and an author of the paper.

Tesar and colleagues are now able to direct mouse stem cells into oligodendrocyte progenitor cells in just 10 days. The team's success relied upon guiding the cells through specific stages that match those that occur during normal embryonic development.