Nerve regeneration blocking pathways identified!

Nerve regeneration blocking pathways identified!

Searching the entire genome, a research team has identified a gene that when eliminated can spur regeneration of axons in nerve cells severed by spinal cord injury.

"For the first time, the limits on nerve fiber regeneration were studied in an unbiased way across nearly all genes," said senior author of the study appearing in the journal Cell Reports. "We had no idea whether we knew a lot or a little about the mechanics of nerve cell regeneration."

The team found more than 580 different genes that may play a role in regeneration of axons in nerve cells, something that rarely occurs in adult mammals but is of vital interest to scientists hoping to repair injuries to the central nervous system. These molecules share no significant overlap with those suggested by previous expression profiles. There is enrichment for genes in pathways related to transport, receptor binding, and cytokine signaling, including Socs4 and Ship2. Intriguingly, said the researchers, about one in 10 of those came from a family of genes involved in transport of information within cells.

The researchers also reported that eliminating one of those genes, Rab27, led to regeneration of axons in the optic nerve or spinal cord of mice.

"We only looked at this one gene, and we have hundreds more to investigate," senior author said. "It is not hard to envision an approach where you can knock down two or three of these pathways and help spur regeneration further than achieved previously."