Researchers at OHSU in Portland, Oregon have discovered that hyaluronic acid, a molecule originally thought to act as a “glue” to hold cells together, actually plays a role in disrupting white matter regeneration. When white matter is damaged, hyaluronic acid is broken down into fragments. The 210 kDa fragment, known as bioactive hyaluronan fragment (bHAf) chronically blocks myelination via a pathway normally used by the immune system in immune tolerance.
This discovery opens the door for the development of targeted therapies to block the generation of bHAf with the goal of promoting brain repair in patients with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, vascular dementia and cerebral palsy. This research as published in the May issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation. As a next step the lab is investigating candidate hyaluronidase inhibitors and inhibitors to other steps in the previously unknown pathway.