Man and machines are not that different. Our bodies are full of nerve cells that act as natural wires, conducting signals from one place to another. As a copper wire needs insulation to keep electricity flowing on the right course, so our nerves need a natural insulator called myelin. To help understand how this insulation wrapping occurs, scientists have created synthetic fibres (grey horizontal lines pictured) of just the right size to mimic nerves. When combined with a mix of cells of the nervous system, the myelin-producing cells (stained pink) respond to the fibres as though they are nerves, enveloping them in myelin. Holes in the myelin sheath can have serious consequences: nerve signals leak and are not transmitted efficiently causing symptoms such as tremors, blindness and speech problems. Learning how myelin wraps around nerves could help treat sufferers of demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Written by Georgina Askeland
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.