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Stiles Team

Recent Progress

Dr. Charles Stiles and colleagues have made outstanding progress toward the goals of this project. The Boston/New York team has examined human MS tissue samples and found that Olig genes are “expressed,” or show up in, the brain of individuals with active MS and also in chronic, silent MS. The team has found evidence that the expression of Olig genes in these tissue samples may be regulated by the very same protein that regulates their expression in the developing brain. This protein is known whimsically as “Sonic hedgehog.” Studies in a mouse model of MS have shown that Olig genes are expressed at very early stages in brain tissue that successfully repairs itself following myelin damage.

In the December 17, 2004 issue of Science, the Stiles team reported evidence that Olig 1 is required for the repair of myelin damage both in mouse models and in brain tissue taken from people with MS. Olig 2, although crucial for the development of myelin-making cells, does not participate in repair.

Most recently, the team has focused on determining the genes targeted by Olig 1 and Olig 2 during myelin repair. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has been chosen as a test site for a new microarray chip that would allow the team to scan the entire human genome for Olig target genes. Using this chip, they have found possible targets and will continue to explore those in the coming year.

This exploration might point up molecular targets for new MS treatment approaches that would stimulate tissue repair.