Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Broken Bridges
18 July 2012

Broken Bridges

A snug connection between our nervous system and muscles is vital for passing on signals from the brain to kick-start movement. Pictured are healthy, branching nerve fibres from a mouse (shown in yellow). Each terminates in neurotransmitter receptors (coloured blue), which will bridge the gap to a muscle seamlessly. But in some disorders, changes to the shape of the junctions during early life means that this span can be broken. In Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), nerve signals to the muscle are blocked at these junctions. Sufferers experience irreversible muscle wasting and as nerve cells die, they can also lose sensation. Deconstructing the processes that lead to nerve death is building a better understanding of CMT, one of the world's most common hereditary neurological disorders, affecting around one in 2,500 people.

Written by Jan Piotrowski

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