One of the most significant challenges to repairing the central nervous system (CNS) is the hostile environment unleashed when the brain or spinal cord suffers damage. In cases of injury and disease, the precisely controlled microenvironment of the CNS is greatly disrupted, contributing directly to tissue damage and a lack of significant functional repair and nerve regeneration. Myelin, the sheath that insulates and protects axons, is particularly vulnerable.
A promising avenue of research at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, is uncovering precisely how this "environmental damage" occurs. These discoveries have the potential to spawn new therapies for a range of neurological conditions, particularly those involving damage to myelin, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and spinal cord injury.
"Our goal is to bring the CNS microenvironment back under control," says Isobel A. Scarisbrick, Ph.D., director of the CNS Injury and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "We hope to make this environment one that is conducive to innate repair and that facilitates therapeutic interventions such as stem cell therapies."