- Professor of Cellular Neuroscience (Immunology)
Professor Sue Barnett leads the Glial Cell Biology Group within the Institute of Infection Immunity and Inflammation. The group focuses on the use of glial cells for central nervous system (CNS) repair. Glial cells are the major cells in the peripheral and central nervous system (PNS and CNS respectively) providing functional, structural and metabolic support for neurons. In the CNS the oligodendrocyte makes the myelin sheath that wraps around axons that is necessary for saltatory conduction. Damage to oligodendrocytes and the myelin sheath are common after injury (spinal cord injury) and in many neurological conditions (eg Multiple Sclerosis). The group are taking two approaches to promote CNS repair. The first involves a cell replacement strategy using specialised glial cells from the olfactory system known as olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) as well as a recently identified stem cell from the olfactory mucosa, termed lamina propria-MSCs. Both cells have a positive effect on myelination. The second involves manipulations of oligodendrocytes to facilitate process extension, axon ensheathment and myelination. Recently focus has turned to the astrocyte where our recent research has shown their phenotype can influence myelination. Ongoing microarray analyses of these various phenotypes are identifying novel candidates for promoting and inhibiting myelination.