Navigation Links
UC San Diego biologists discover genes that repair nerves after injury

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 genes that appear to repress the growth of axons.

"The discovery of these inhibitors is probably the most exciting finding," said Chisholm, because identifying and eliminating the inhibiting factors to the re-growth of axons could be just as essential as the biochemical pathways that promote axon re-growth in repairing spinal cord injuries and other kinds of nerve damage.

The scientists were also surprised to learn that some of the genes they found to be involved in the re-growth of axons were known to have other functions, such as regulating the release of neurotransmitters.

"This was in large part unexpected," said Chisholm. "These genes had not been implicated in the re-growth of axons before."

To find the 76 genes, the researchers conducted painstaking experiments on more than 10,000 tiny laboratory roundworms known as C. elegans. The first step involved developing genetic mutants of these transparent roundworms for each one of 654 genes that were suspected to play a role in the regulation of axon regrowth in worms, fruit flies and mice. They then labeled the roundworm neurons with green fluorescent protein and, with a precise surgical laser, damaged a specific axon.

"The goal was to study this process in its simplest form," said Chisholm. "Because the animals are essentially transparent, we can see the axons expressing this green fluorescent protein."

By examining the re-growth, or lack of growth, of the damaged axon 24 hours later, the scientists were then able to determine which of these 654 genes were actually important to axon re-growth.

Chisholm said that while the 76 genes identified are believed to have similar roles in mammals as well as roundworms, because their functions were "conserved" by the organisms through evolution, he and his research team are now collaborating with other investigators to conduct experiments on mice to verify this connection and determine which of these genes are the most critically important.

"Worms are clearly different from mammals," he added. "But there will be a core of conserved molecules doing the same job."


Contact: Kim McDonald
University of California - San Diego

Related biology news :

1. Firewood movement leading cause of oak infestation in San Diego County
2. San Diego Zoo Global joins effort to conserve the Amazonian rain forest through Peru field station
3. UC San Diego computer scientists lauded for computer systems security, bioinformatics work
4. San Diego Supercomputer Center participates in first Census of Marine Life
5. DOE awards UC San Diego consortium $9 million for algal biofuels research
6. Wireless sensor startup wins UC San Diego $80K Entrepreneur Challenge
7. American Society for Microbiology to host 110th general meeting in San Diego
8. Stimulus grant of nearly $9 million to UC San Diego funds big study of young brains
9. Siebel Foundation awards top UC San Diego bioengineering graduate students
10. UC San Diego engineer provides insights to decades-old DNA squabble
11. UC San Diegos $3 million NSF grant to fund science festivals
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/18/2015)... November 18, 2015 --> ... a new market report titled  Gesture Recognition Market - ... 2015 - 2021. According to the report, the global gesture recognition ... anticipated to reach US$29.1 bn by 2021, at a ... North America dominated the global gesture ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... , Nov. 17, 2015  Vigilant Solutions announces today ... its Board of Directors. --> ... recently retiring from the partnership at TPG Capital, one ... with over $140 Billion in revenue.  He founded and ... all the TPG companies, from 1997 to 2013.  In ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... , Nov. 12, 2015  A golden retriever ... Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) has provided a new lead ... Children,s Hospital, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard ... Brazil . Cell, pinpoints ... dogs "escape" the disease,s effects. The Boston Children,s lab ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - ... the request of IIROC on behalf of the Toronto ... this news release there are no corporate developments that ... price. --> --> ... --> . --> Aeterna Zentaris ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Muncie, IN (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... its newest Special Interest Group (SIG), MultiGP, also known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to ... in the last few years. Many AMA members have embraced this type of racing ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) ... remaining 11,000 post-share consolidation (or 1,100,000 pre-share consolidation) ... B Warrants") subject to the previously disclosed November ... 2015, which will result in the issuance of ... the issuance of such shares, there will be ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Creation Technologies would ... named to Deloitte's 2015 Technology Fast 500 list of the fastest growing companies ... FDA-cleared, Class II medical device that speeds up orthodontic tooth movement by as ...
Breaking Biology Technology: