MICROSCOPY: Mouse Schwann cells reveal cause of neurofibromatosis

Sometimes the simplest solutions can achieve surprisingly significant results. Using an inverted Olympus culture microscope, researchers from the University of Michigan (UM; Ann Arbor) were able to track down the cells responsible for neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), an incurable condition of the peripheral nervous system that afflicts one in 3500 Americans. Though most cases are mild, the disease can lead to disfigurement, learning disabilities, blindness, skeletal abnormalities, loss of limbs and, occasionally, lethal malignancies. NF1 causes benign tumors to grow around peripheral nerves; in 3% to 5% of the cases, the tumors later become malignant (neurofibromas).

An inverted Olympus microscope image of mouse Schwann cells is shown in red with the cell nuclei stained blue. (Courtesy of University of Michigan/Nancy Joseph)
Click here to enlarge image

Researchers have long wondered which cell types trigger formation of neurofibromas: Schwann cells, which form the protective myelin sheath around nerve fibers, or stem cells that give rise to Schwann cells during fetal development? The answer has implications for the development of drug therapies.

In a study published in the Feb. 5 Cancer Cell, UM scientists Nancy Joseph and Jack Mosher tried to determine if deleting the NF1 gene causes neural crest stem cells to persist beyond birth and form neurofibromas in mice. They studied seven mouse models that had various mutations of the NF1 gene and other genes known to contribute to the formation of neurofibromas and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors.

“The surprise was that we didn’t see neural crest stem cells persist after birth in regions where the tumors formed, even with the NF1 deletions,” Joseph says. “That argues against a stem-cell origin.”

This study, when combined with related work done in Yuan Zhu’s lab in the UM Medical School (also published in Cancer Cell, Feb. 5), led the researchers to conclude that Schwann cells, not neural crest stem cells, proliferate to form the tumors. Zhu and his colleagues were able to show that a specific type of Schwann cell, called a non-myelinating Schwann cell, is the likely source of potentially cancerous neurofibromas.

“One of the difficulties of NF1 is that it is hard to predict when tumors will grow and which tumors will turn malignant. You don’t want to use a very aggressive therapy because some tumors will never grow,” Zhu says. “With this insight into the initiation of the disease, we can develop strategies to prevent the tumors from forming.”


Get All the BioOptics World News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to BioOptics World Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now
Related Articles

(SLIDESHOW) View the July/August 2013 issue

ONCOLOGY/CANCER TREATMENT: Study reveals potential of terahertz pulses to fight cancer

Terahertz (THz) photons don't have sufficient energy to break apart the bonds that bind DNA in a cell's nucleus.

OPTOACOUSTICS/OXIMETRY: Real-time photoacoustics beats pulse oximetry by measuring oxygenation in single cells

Red blood cells ferry oxygen to a body's cells and tissues by way of arteries, veins, and capillaries.

SPECTROSCOPY/ONCOLOGY/GYNECOLOGY: First-ever minimally invasive ovarian cancer screen is spectroscopy-based

Researchers at Northwestern University and NorthShore University HealthSystem have previously demonstrated the ability of partial-wave spectroscopy to detect subtle changes in cells that indicate c...


Neuro15 exhibitors meet exacting demands: Part 2

Increasingly, neuroscientists are working with researchers in disciplines such as chemistry and p...

Why be free?

A successful career contributed to keeping OpticalRayTracer—an optical design software program—fr...

LASER Munich 2015 is bio-bent

LASER World of Photonics 2015 included the European Conferences on Biomedical Optics among its si...

White Papers

Understanding Optical Filters

Optical filters can be used to attenuate or enhance an image, transmit or reflect specific wavele...

How can I find the right digital camera for my microscopy application?

Nowadays, image processing is found in a wide range of optical microscopy applications. Examples ...



Twitter- BioOptics World

Copyright © 2007-2016. PennWell Corporation, Tulsa, OK. All Rights Reserved.PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS