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Sympathetic neurons 'cross talk' with pancreas cells during early development
Date:8/15/2013

The human body is a complicated system of blood vessels, nerves, organs, tissue and cells each with a specific job to do. When all are working together, it's a symphony of form and function as each instrument plays its intended roles.

Biologist Rejji Kuruvilla and her fellow researchers uncovered what happens when one instrument is not playing its part.

Kuruvilla along with graduate students Philip Borden and Jessica Houtz, both from the Biology Department at Johns Hopkins University's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Steven Leach from the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, recently published a paper in the journal Cell Reports exploring whether "cross-talk" or reciprocal signaling, takes place between the neurons in the sympathetic nervous system and the tissues that the nerves connect to. In this case the targeted tissue called islets, were in the pancreas.

"We knew that sympathetic neurons need molecular signals from the tissues that they connect with, to grow and survive," said Kuruvilla. "What we did not know was whether the neurons would reciprocally signal to the target tissues to instruct them to grow and mature. It made sense to focus on the pancreas because of previous studies done in diabetic animal models where sympathetic nerves within the pancreas were found to retract early on in the disease, suggesting that dysfunction of the nerves could be an early trigger for pancreatic defects."

The researchers spent approximately three years working with lab mice to test the various scenarios in which signaling between sympathetic neurons and islet cells might take place. The experiments focused on what effects removing the sympathetic nerves would have on pancreas development in newborn mice.

Previous studies had shown that pancreatic cells release a signal of their own, a nerve growth protein, that directs the sympathetic nerves toward th
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Contact: Latarsha Gatlin
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert

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