Anat Rec 2003 Mar;271B(1):71-6
The olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) of the peripheral olfactory system associate with the axons of the first cranial nerve.
These axons are not myelinated by OECs because of their very small diameter.
However, when OECs are transplanted into areas where they encounter larger-diameter axons, such as in a model of primary demyelination, these cells assume a myelinating phenotype.
Myelinating OECs very closely resemble myelinating Schwann cells by all criteria currently examined, including morphology, ultrastructure, biochemistry, and transcriptional regulation.
Indeed, it is currently impossible to reliably distinguish myelinating OECs and myelinating Schwann cells that have been transplanted into experimental models of CNS demyelination.
This article describes recent studies on the myelinating properties of transplanted OECs, focusing on their intrinsic myelinating potential and how this can be augmented by the presence of meningeal cells.
The relative merits of OECs compared with Schwann cells when transplanted into astrocyte-containing lesions in the CNS are discussed together with their potential role in transplanted-mediated repair of demyelinating disease such as multiple sclerosis.