Thomas A. Anderson:
The scientists report today in the journal Cell Stem Cell that the finding could bring them closer to finding a treatment for incurable neurological conditions, such as Pelizaeus-Merzbacher's disease and adrenoleukodystrophy, the mysterious, debilitating disorder portrayed in the 1992 film Lorenzo's Oil.
Patients who suffer from these genetic conditions experience symptoms ranging from muscle weakness and paralysis to seizures and dementia. The problems are caused by disruptions in nerve cell (neuron), communication triggered by a lack of myelin, which, in normal nerve cells, coats and insulates their axons. (An axon is a fingerlike projection on a neuron that carries signals other nerve cells, thereby allowing impulses to and from the brain and other parts of the nervous system.