By Stephan Castro
It’s amazing how a simple observation of the surrounding environment can entrance you into a particular facet of life. Whether it is watching the trees, clouds, an event, or anything else in the surrounding environment, an idea can become entrenched inside your mind that you simply cannot get it out without acting upon it. For Sebastian Radloff, it was watching the trains in Berlin that initiated his deep interest in a particular type of cells called oligodendrocytes. The cells look like the cars on a train under the microscope.
An oligodendrocyte is a type of cell within the nervous system that insulates nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. This insulation enables more efficient movement of electrical messages down a nerve cell. Ultimately, oligodendrocytes are like electrical tape for wires; they make sure that the electric current is kept within the nerve cell and moves down the wire to its intended target. Additionally if oligodendrocytes degrade within the nervous system, nerve cells are unable to transport electrical messages to their respective targets. This condition of degradation is known as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in humans. The gradual degeneration of these oligodendrocytes is related to the steady decrease in movement and eventual death due to the loss of basic functions like breathing.
In pursuit of his interests, Radloff is studying this neurodegenerative disease for his senior thesis in neuroscience. Specifically, he will suggest a model thatwill hopefully propose a new method of preventing and perhaps restoring the degradation associated with MS. If his thesis research turns out as expected he will submit his thesis as a grant proposal and in due time have the opportunity to spend two to three years conducting the experiments he proposes in his model to provide more research to the field of preventative and restorative science of MS.
Radloff still has a lot of work in store. These past few weeks he has focused his research on one model;: the Cuprizone model. Whereas other models have been associated with destruction and restoration of oligodendrocytes the Cuprizone model is a model that is associated solely with the destruction of oligodendrocytes, a procedure that mimics the degeneration of these cells in MS. With this MS mimicking model Radloff then focuses on what methodology can possibly prevent or restore the degeneration involved in the Cuprizone model. This feat is not a simple one. Out of all the library research that Radloff has conducted, the greatest regeneration he has encountered of these cells is only 12%. In due time Radloff may discover new theories of where, when, and how MS occurs and subsequently develop new theories in his thesis work on how to possibly prevent and even restore ability in patients with MS. As of now, there is a still long road ahead.