Lipid transporting protein MFSD2 identified as important in maintaining neurons' protective myelin sheath
If you go outside on a stormy day in a shoddily-made coat, you’ll get cold and. And if neurons don’t wear their own proper protective layer, malfunction and neurological diseases can result. Their sheath is made of a substance called myelin (green in the brain section pictured). This can degrade as we age, so researchers are investigating how it's produced and maintained. In mice, they studied the impact of removing Mfsd2a, a protein that transports lipids to the brain to help myelination. Removing Mfsd2a was like robbing a construction worker’s toolkit, and oligodendrocytes – the cells that produce myelin – couldn’t mature and do their job. Without Mfsd2a delivering the essential lipids, myelination decreased. Raising levels of the protein or the lipids it transports might encourage the production and repair of myelin sheaths, which could help prevent birth defects like microcephaly, or stave off conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
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