(September 24, 2021) Prof. Webster Santos, in collaboration with Prof. Alban Gaultier at the University of Virginia, has received a $440K grant from the National Institutes of Health to support a project titled, “Discovering new therapies to promote myelin repair.” The team will investigate and develop compounds involved in remyelination. The work would advance the understanding of myelination regulation, which could have implications for development of novel therapeutics to treat diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

In patients with MS, the myelin sheath surrounding neurons is destroyed by the body’s own immune cells. Once the myelin is removed, the axons begin to decay, leading to debilitating symptoms. Current therapies for MS focus only inhibiting the immune response, leaving already demyelinated neurons susceptible to die. Activating remyelination would involve oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) differentiating into mature oligodendrocytes that in turn remyelinate axons. The team recently discovered molecules that drive OPC differentiation in vitro and efficacy validated in an animal model of MS. This project will investigate the mechanism of action and identify chemotypes that activate remyelination. To achieve this, the team will work to discover the receptor/protein target key to OPCs’ differentiation and develop compounds into drug-like molecules. These investigations will provide fundamental advances in understanding the regulation of myelination and have the potential to open the door for the development of new therapeutics with novel modes of action.