Promising New Discovery For Nerve Damage Repair

140401102122-largeNerve damage repair after spinal cord injury may be possible, according to a report published in Nature Communications by a research lab from Imperial College London.

Currently, nerve damage from spinal cord injury and/or brain trauma is irreparable. This groundbreaking study may have discovered a way to re-grow nerve fibers in the central nervous system. Professor Simone Di Giovanni, the lead author, says that, “their results suggest that we may be able to target specific chemical changes to enhance the growth of nerves after injury to the central nervous system.”

The motivation behind this experiment was the study of the peripheral nervous system, where nerves are much more likely to regenerate than central nervous system nerves. The researchers wanted to highlight what aspect of the peripheral nervous system allows this to happen and hopefully apply a similar technique to the nerves of the central nervous system.

The researchers utilized a protein called P300/CBP-associated factor (PCAF), which appears to be essential for the series of genetic and chemical events that allow nerves to regenerate. When mice with central nervous system damage were injected with PCAF, they showed a vast improvement in the number of regenerated nerve fibers.

The scientists were able to isolate PCAF by studying nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system. They noticed that the damaged nerves send signals back to the cell to switch on a program to initiate nerve growth. By isolating the chemical events that produce this mechanism, they were able to pinpoint the protein PCAF.

This study is only the first of many. Now that the research team has shown that they are able to regenerate nerve fibers, they need to show next that they will be able to improve cognitive and motor function in these mice. If proven successful, this will be a major breakthrough in the field of medicine and the desire to repair nerve damage.




Source: R. Puttagunta et al. PCAF-dependent epigenetic changes promote axonal regeneration in the central nervous systemNature Communications, March 2014

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