A research project that aims to explore how astrocytes can be manipulated to stop or prevent neurodegeneration has received a grant from the National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF). The project will be conducted by the The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute.
The work developed by Dr. Valentina Fossati and her team at the NYSCF will contribute to a better understanding of how different types of central nervous system cells work together, which may have an important role in the development of novel therapies for brain diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
“The National Stem Cell Foundation is delighted to be funding Dr. Fossati’s very promising research at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute,” said NSCF Chair and CEO Dr. Paula Grisanti in a press release. “It is our goal to fund collaborations that will accelerate the development and availability of cell therapies with the greatest potential for immediate impact. This research has the potential to fundamentally alter our understanding of how and why neurodegeneration occurs.”
The MS research being conducted at the NYSCF will focus on the involvement of astrocytes in the loss of the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells, a hallmark of MS. The investigators will develop new protocols in which a patient’s own cells can be reprogrammed to generate oligodendrocytes, the cells that produce myelin, and astrocytes.
If they succeed, the production of healthy oligodendrocytes may potentially be used in cell-based therapies as a therapeutic approach to reduce or revert myelin damage.
The findings may also provide cues about how to modify astrocytes to prevent the loss of function caused by myelin damage, which may also help halt or prevent the progression of MS.
“Every day, we are working to find new treatments — and even cures — for multiple sclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases,” said NYSCF CEO Susan L. Solomon. “This support from the National Stem Cell Foundation is important as we pursue all avenues of investigation to create a better understanding of the biology behind MS and many other diseases. Our hope is that this research will allow people to live longer with a better quality of life.”