Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have identified more than 70 genes that play a role in regenerating nerves after injury, providing biomedical researchers with a valuable set of genetic leads for use in developing therapies to repair spinal cord injuries and other common kinds of nerve damage such as stroke.
In the September 22 issue of the journal Neuron, the scientists detail their discoveries after an exhaustive two-year investigation of 654 genes suspected to be involved in regulating the growth of axonsthe thread-like extensions of nerve cells that transmit electrical impulses to other nerve cells. From their large-scale genetic screen, the researchers identified 70 genes that promote axon growth after injury and six more genes that repress the re-growth of axons.
"We don't know much about how axons re-grow after they're damaged," said Andrew Chisholm, a professor of biology at UC San Diego. "When you have an injury to your spinal cord or you have a stroke you cause a lot of damage to your axons. And in your brain or spinal cord, regeneration is very inefficient. That's why spinal cord injuries are basically untreatable."
Chisholm and UC San Diego biology professor and HHMI Investigator Yishi Jin headed the collaborative research team, which also included researchers from the University of Oregon.
While scientists in recent decades have gained a good understanding of how nerve cells, or neurons, develop their connections in the developing embryo, much less is known about how adult animals and humans repairor fail to repairthose connections when axons are damaged.
"There are many processes not involved in early development that are involved in switching the neurons to this re-growth mode," said Chisholm. "In essence what we found are genes that people had not suspected previously to be part of this process."
Of particular interest to the UC San Diego biologists are the six ge
|Contact: Kim McDonald|
University of California - San Diego