Myelin is the main component of the white matter of the central nervous system (CNS), allowing the proper electrical function of the neurons by ensheathing and insulating the axons. The extensive use of magnetic resonance imaging has highlighted the white matter alterations in Alzheimer's dementia (AD) and other neurodegenerative diseases, alterations which are early, extended, and regionally selective. Given that the white matter turnover is considerable in the adulthood, and that myelin repair is currently recognized as being the only true reparative capability of the mature CNS, oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), the cells that differentiate in oligodendrocyte, responsible for myelin formation and repair, are regarded as a potential target for neuroprotection. In this review, several aspects of the OPC biology are reviewed. The histology and functional role of OPCs in the neurovascular-neuroglial unit as described in preclinical and clinical studies on AD is discussed, such as the OPC vulnerability to hypoxia-ischemia, neuroinflammation, and amyloid deposition. Finally, the position of OPCs in drug discovery strategies for dementia is discussed.
Keywords: amyloid; drug screening; oligodendrocyte precursor cells; oxygen-glucose deprivation.