Researchers

There are many brilliant and important researchers working to overcome the various challenges raised by PMD.

Some are trying to find a better way to diagnose the disease.  This is especially important when you consider the fact that 25% of the PMD population are diagnosed by symptoms only and do not have any verification via known testing procedures.  (Can you imagine how you would feel if you were told that your son has PMD, but yet all of his blood tests came back negative and there were no other explanations to offer?)

Other researchers are trying to get myelin to form in the central nervous system of animals that have been specially bred to have a certain PMD mutation.   The Jimpy mouse model has a sex-linked recessive mutation located in the gene coding for PLP (Dautigny et al, 1986; Schneider et al, 1995).  The creation and testing of these animal “models” expands our knowledge base of the physiological aspects of PMD without endangering our boys.

The newer techniques utilizing stem cells to replace defective oligodendrocytes is also very encouraging.  Stem Cells Inc.’s Phase I Trial on connatal PMD patients demonstrated small, but discernable increases in myelin.  Continued testing on a larger population (with control subjects) is needed to determine the true potential of this treatment.  Read up-to-date information about this under the News category.

If a technique is created to successfully form sufficient myelin, then not only might a treatment for PMD be on the horizon, but this technique could then be applied to help or cure people with any of these diseases:

 

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Canavan Disease
  • Krabbe’s Disease
  • Metachromatic Leukodystrophy
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy
  • Lesch-Nyhan Leigh’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease

Still other researchers are trying to figure out how to solve the “protein puzzle” or the proteome issue. The Human Genome project identified and sequenced almost all letters of the human DNA, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Every gene creates a protein, and sometimes more than one. Every protein folds into a unique three-dimensional shape that is very intricate and sensitive to its function. Sometimes these proteins perform functions by combining with several other proteins that each have their own unique three-dimensional shape. Even in this age of supercomputing and technological advancement, computing power must increase to allow the scientists to work effectively with multiple 3-D models at-a-time.

Add to that the fact that PMD is a relatively unknown disease with a much smaller affected population because of poor public awareness, and that leaves the scientists with less human DNA to work with.  Of the DNA they are working with that positively tests for PMD, there are over 40 documented mutations in the PLP gene.  What needs to be done now is to see how each of those PLP gene mutations creates its protein, and how that protein compares to that of a normal PLP gene protein.

In no particular order, here are some of the scientists and organizations working on this amazingly complex challenge.  Please help us to support them in their endeavors:

Wayne State University

Clinical features of PMD

Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), named after two German physicians who first described
its most important clinical features, is a rare condition caused by mutations affecting the gene
for proteolipid protein 1 (PLP1, formerly called PLP).

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Dr. Grace Hobson, Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

Neurogenetics Research Laboratory

Our work in the Neurogenetics Research Lab is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of human leukodystrophies, which are diseases of the white matter (myelin) of the central nervous system. A primary focus is on Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease (PMD) and spastic paraplegia 2 (SPG2), X-linked disorders of myelin formation.

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Dr. Franca Cambi, University of Kentucky

Research Interests

Dr. Cambi’s laboratory is focused upon oligodendrocyte cell biology, regulation of alternative splicing of genes expressed by differentiating oligodendrocytes and the molecular determinants that regulate oligodendrocyte function in maintaining myelin and axonal integrity during development, in inherited myelin disorders and in injury models.

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The Myelin Project

Dr. Cambi’s laboratory is focused upon oligodendrocyte cell biology, regulation of alternative splicing of genes expressed by differentiating oligodendrocytes and the molecular determinants that regulate oligodendrocyte function in maintaining myelin and axonal integrity during development, in inherited myelin disorders and in injury models.

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Dr. Ian Duncan, University of Wisconsin

Research

Our research is aimed at repairing the central nervous system in people with myelin disorders. While our major target is multiple sclerosis (MS), we also are devising strategies for myelin repair in the inherited childhood disorders, particularly Krabbe’s disease and Pelizaeus Merzbacher disease.

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