Multiple sclerosis affects the brain and spinal cord and can cause problems with balance, movement and vision.
The brain transmits messages or signals along nerve fibres known as axons. These axons have a layer around them, called myelin, which keeps them healthy and helps speed up the transfer of information. Damage to myelin contributes to diseases of the brain such as multiple sclerosis.
Stimulating the production of myelin increases the activity of neurons and could benefit people with the disease. The finding could pave the way for new treatments, researchers say.
Researchers of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the Lister Research Prize examined the relationship between myelin production and activity of neurons in the brains of zebrafish. Decreased brain function reduced the synthesis of myelin, while production was increased by around 40% when the neuronal activity of fish was increased, the team says.
Dr David Lyons, of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Neuroregeneration, said, "We have a long way to go before we fully understand how our brain activity regulates myelin production, but the fact that this is even something that the brain can do is a good news story. We are hopeful that one day in the future we may be able to translate this type of discovery to help treat disease and to maintain a healthy nervous system through life."
Dr Emma Gray, Head of Biomedical Research, MS Society, said, "The more we learn about how myelin production happens in the brain, the more chance we have of developing effective and targeted therapies to repair myelin in people with MS."