Master gene orchestrates regeneration of damaged peripheral nerves​

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From the WUSTL Newsroom…

One of the big challenges with spinal cord injuries is that spinal cord neurons don’t have the ability to regrow after an injury. That’s why most spinal paralysis in patients is permanent.

So scientists tend to focus their research on regrowing peripheral neurons – those that extend from the spinal column to the tips of the hands and feet. Peripheral neurons in the body’s extremities have the ability to regenerate, helping people regain some movement and sensation.

In new research, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a master gene involved in orchestrating the regrowth of peripheral nerves. The gene works as a main switch, making other genes “flip on” in a domino-like fashion. Understanding how these nerves regenerate one day may aid efforts to regrow spinal cord neurons, the researchers said.

The findings are published online Oct. 29 in the journal Neuron.

Surprisingly, senior author Valeria Cavalli, PhD, associate professor of neurobiology, has shown that injury to peripheral nerves flips on a master gene, called hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha, otherwise known as HIF-1alpha. This gene, in turn, activates some 200 genes involved in the regrowth of peripheral nerves.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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Posted on November 2, 2015
Posted in: Axon Injury & Repair, News Authors: