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Malte Kaller (DPhil) Co-Authors Paper for BRAIN Journal of Neurology

11th October 2017

Malte Kaller has just entered his third year of a DPhil in Neuroscience at Pembroke. He is currently studying how experience can influence a process called ‘myelination’ in the central nervous system and how this process may contribute to learning. Earlier this year he co-authored a paper titled ‘A Human Model to Study Peripheral Myelination and Demyelinating Neuropathies’ for publication in ‘BRAIN – A Journal of Neurology’, a reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journal. Since then Malte has won a Speaker Prize at Oxford Medical Science DPhil Day and the ‘MCR Collingwood Prize’ for his academic achievement.

‘Peripheral myelination’ is an essential process in the development of the peripheral nervous system information from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body and from your body to your brain and spinal cord. The development, function and repair of this rather useful arrangement crucially depends on peripheral nerve cells closely interacting with another cell type called Schwann cells. Malte’s interest lies in “the close cellular interaction between nerve cells and other non-neuronal cells in the nervous system, whose importance has been underestimated for a long time.”

The study of this cellular interaction and the diseases that affect it have heavily relied on animal models, as well as cell cultures models using animal cells; however, the lack of an analogous human cellular system has limited the research, as prevalent inflammatory disease mechanisms are difficult to study in a different species. Malte and his co-researcher’s recent work addressed this obstacle by using cellular reprogramming to create a system to study ‘peripheral myelination’ of human axons in a cell culture environment.

They achieved this by reprogramming human skins cells into something called ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ – these have the potential to turn into any cells type of your body, including peripheral nerve cells. Co-culturing these cells with animal Schwann cells, the researchers developed and characterised a cellular system that is robust and durable and seems ideal for use in high-content platforms for drug discovery. Additionally, using antibodies isolated from the blood of patients suffering from inflammatory neuropathies, the researchers demonstrate the potential of this system to model and study such diseases.

Find out more about their research here.

the illustration above is taken from Malte's research paper (green illustrates neurons, blue cell bodies and red myelin)