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J Neurosci Res. 2012 Jan;90(1):72-83. doi: 10.1002/jnr.22717. Epub 2011 Sep 19.

Electrical stimulation promotes the survival of oligodendrocytes in mixed cortical cultures.

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  • 1The International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, Hugo W. Moser Research Institute at Kennedy Krieger, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


Oligodendrocyte (OLG) death plays a major role in white matter dysfunction and demyelination following injury to the CNS. Axonal contact, communication, and neuronal activity appear to promote OLG survival and function in cell culture and during development. The application of electrical stimulation to mixed neural cultures has been shown to promote OLG differentiation and the formation of myelin in vitro. Here we show that OLG viability can be significantly enhanced in mixed cortical cultures by applying biphasic pulses of electrical stimulation (ESTIM). Enhanced survival via ESTIM requires the presence of neurons and is suppressed by inhibition of voltage-gated sodium channels. Additionally, contact between the axon and OLG is necessary for ESTIM to promote OLG survival. This report suggests that patterned neuronal activity could repress delayed progression of white matter injury and promote CNS repair in neurological conditions that involve white matter damage.

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