Understanding the rules of life

Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

Category: Standard Studentships

Targeting potassium channels in oligodendrocytes to maintain myelin and a healthy brain across the lifespan

Project No.2205

Primary Supervisor

Prof Arthur Butt – University of Portsmouth


Dr Anthony Lewis – University of Portsmouth

Dr Emma Veale – University of Kent


Oligodendrocytes are specialised cells of the brain and spinal cord that form myelin

Oligodendrocytes are specialised cells of the brain and spinal cord that form myelin. Myelin is the insulating layer around nerve axons and is essential for rapid conduction of information and for trophic support of neurones. The life-long maintenance of oligodendrocytes/myelin is essential for brain function and neuronal integrity. We have recently published evidence that myelin loss and white matter disruption are major factors in brain ageing, which is a key underlying factor in age-related decline of cognitive function. Hence, understanding the fundamental mechanisms that ensure the life-long maintenance of oligodendrocytes and myelin is essential for promoting a healthy brain across the lifespan. Furthermore, we have published evidence that the novel inward rectifying potassium channel Kir7.1 is crucial for oligodendrocyte integrity. This advances our previous data on the importance of other potassium channels in oligodendrocytes, including K2P. In this project, the student will be supervised and trained by a team of internationally recognised potassium channel experts to discover novel mechanisms for modulating channel activity to promote oligodendrocyte function and integrity, using a wide range of genetic and pharmacological gain- and loss-of-function approaches. This project will generate new fundamental knowledge on the functions of potassium channels in oligodendrocyte cell biology and their role in maintaining healthy brain function.