Published October 20, 2015
Yungki Park, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry, has received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study a transcription factor key to developing and maintaining myelin in the central nervous system.
Myelin regulatory factor, or Myrf, plays a critical role in the differentiation of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPs) — which do not produce myelin — into mature oligodendrocytes (OLs), which do.
Yet scientists know little about how Myrf regulates the differentiation process. This lack of understanding impedes researchers studying myelin, the insulating sheath that helps the nervous system function properly.
“Better understanding the fundamental mechanism of Myrf could help researchers develop more effective therapeutics for myelin diseases, such as cerebral white matter injury in preterm infants and multiple sclerosis,” Park says.
He works in the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute, which supports studies and seeks treatments for myelin diseases.
Park recently made a finding that fundamentally changed the paradigm for Myrf: Rather than the overwhelming majority of transcription factors, which are generated as nucleus proteins, Myrf is generated as a membrane protein.
He went on to discover a new protein domain that Myrf uses to permeates the nucleus, where all transcription factors function.
With the grant, Park has three goals:
“The differentiation of OLs is under tight regulation,” Park explains. “Dysregulation causes neurological disorders and has been linked to neuropsychiatric diseases. Without this basic research there cannot be improvements in therapeutics for these conditions.”