Scientists from Singapore have made a significant breakthrough in understanding the crucial role of a transporter protein that regulates brain cells and protects nerves with myelin sheaths. The myelin sheaths are essential for efficient electrical signal conduction in the nervous system. As people age, myelin sheaths may naturally degenerate, leading to physical and mental decline.
The research focused on a protein called Mfsd2a, responsible for transporting a lipid containing omega-3 fatty acids into the brain during myelination. Removing Mfsd2a from precursor cells that mature into myelin-producing cells resulted in deficient myelination in preclinical models. The absence of Mfsd2a led to reduced fatty acid molecules, particularly omega-3 fats, in the precursor cells, hindering their maturation into myelin-producing oligodendrocytes.
The study suggests that LPC omega-3 lipids play a critical role in brain myelination, opening potential avenues for therapies and dietary supplements to preserve myelin in the ageing brain and treat neurological disorders. The researchers plan to conduct preclinical studies to explore the potential of dietary LPC omega-3 in re-myelinating damaged brain axons, hoping it can improve brain myelination and cognitive function during ageing.
The research, led by Dr. Sengottuvel Vetrivel and Professor David Silver, has significantly contributed to understanding lipid transport’s importance in brain myelination and may pave the way for future treatments to mitigate the impacts of ageing on the brain.