Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Self-healing Nerves

Species that can repair damage nerves provide insight for treating nerve-injured humans

19 June 2019

Self-healing Nerves

Your brain and spinal cord are connected to the rest of your body through a delicate network of nerves. Injury to these nerves causing loss of communication with the brain can result in severe and life-long disabilities. Scientists are keen to learn more about how some species, like the tiny roundworm C. elegans, spontaneously repair damaged nerve fibres through a process called axonal fusion. Now researchers have identified a specific protein, called GTPase RAB-5, which prevents nerve fibre fragments from fusing back together. When this protein was blocked, the fusion process was restored. This image shows one such repaired roundworm neuron (repeated) with different proteins fluorescently coloured. In future, this new knowledge could be applied to encourage nerve fibres to heal and even bring about long-term recovery for patients with peripheral and central nerve injuries.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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