COLUMBIA, Mo. A delay in traffic may cause a headache, but a delay in the nervous system can cause much more. University of Missouri researchers have uncovered clues identifying which proteins are involved in the development of the nervous system and found that the proteins previously thought to play a significant role, in fact, do not. Understanding how the nervous system develops will give researchers a better understanding of neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorders.
"Speed is the key to the nervous system," said Michael Garcia, investigator in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center and assistant professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. "The peripheral nervous system 'talks' to muscles through nerve impulses in response to external stimuli. When babies are born, they do not have fully developed nervous systems, and their systems run slower. Eventually, the nervous system matures. Our study tried to understand that maturation process."
The process of nerve cells maturation is called myelination. During myelination, a layer of myelin (electrically insulating material) wraps or forms around the axons (part of the nerve cell that conducts electrical impulses). Nerve impulses travel faster in myelinated nerve cells.
"Myelination is important for signal transmission because it increases nerve conduction velocity," Garcia said. "The relationship between axons and myelinating cells is a reciprocal one, with each cell type sending and receiving signals from the other cell. One signal originates from myelinating cells and results in a large increase in axonal diameter."
When nerve cells are unmyelinated, the axon has a smaller diameter and contains neurofilaments that are less modified and are more compact. Neurofilaments are a group of proteins that are essential for diameter growth. The protein group includes neurofilament subunits that are c
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University of Missouri-Columbia