Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Neuronal Regeneration and the Two-Part Design of Nerves

06.06.2013
Researchers at the University of Michigan have evidence that a single gene controls both halves of nerve cells, and their research demonstrates the need to consider that design in the development of new treatments for regeneration of nerve cells.

A paper published online in PLOS Biology by U-M Life Sciences Institute faculty member Bing Ye and colleagues shows that manipulating genes of the fruit fly Drosophila to promote the growth of one part of the neuron simultaneously stunts the growth of the other part.


Credit: Xin Wang

A neuron contains two sets of protrusions of different functions: dendrites (shown in green) receive signals from other neurons or sensory stimuli, whereas the axons (shown in purple) pass signals to other neurons or muscles. Such a two-part design serves as a basis for the functioning neural networks inside of our brains, in a way that is similar to diodes in electric circuits.

Understanding this bimodal nature of neurons is important for researchers developing therapies for spinal cord injury, neurodegeneration and other nervous system diseases, Ye said.

Nerve cells look strikingly like trees, with a crown of "branches" converging at a "trunk." The branches, called dendrites, input information from other neurons into the nerve cell. The trunk, or axon, transmits the signal to the next cell.

"If you want to regenerate an axon to repair an injury, you have to take care of the other end, too," said Ye, assistant professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the U-M Medical School.

The separation of the nerve cell into these two parts is so fundamental to neuroscience that it's known as the "neuron doctrine," but how exactly neurons create, maintain and regulate these two separate parts and functions is still largely unknown.

While the body is growing, the neuronal network grows rapidly. But nerve cells don't divide and replicate like other cells in the body (instead, a specific type of stem cell creates them). Adult nerve cells appear to no longer have the drive to grow, so the loss of neurons due to injury or neurodegeneration can be permanent.

Ye's paper highlights the bimodal nature of neurons by explaining how a kinase that promotes axon growth surprisingly has the opposite effect of impeding dendrite growth of the same cell.

In the quest to understand the fundamentals of nerve cell growth in order to stimulate regrowth after injury, scientists have identified the genes responsible for axon growth and were able to induce dramatic growth of the long "trunk" of the cell, but less attention has been given to dendrites.

There are technical reasons that studying axons is easier than studying dendrites: The bundle of axons in a nerve is easier to track under the microscope, but to get an image of dendrites would require labeling single neurons.

Ye's lab circumvented that obstacle by using Drosophila as a model. Using this simple model of the nervous system, the scientists were able to reliably label both axons and dendrites of single neurons and see what happened to nerve cells with various mutations of genes that are shared between the flies and humans.

One of the genes shared by Drosophila and people is the one that makes a protein called Dual Lucine Zipper Kinase, or DLK. As described previously by other groups, DLK is a product of the gene responsible for axon growth. Cells with more of the protein had very long axons, and those without the gene or protein had no regeneration after nerve injury. The DLK kinase seemed a promising target for therapies to regenerate nerve cells.

However, Ye's lab found that the kinase had the opposite effect on the dendrites: Lots of DLK leads to diminished dendrites.

"This in vivo evidence of bimodal control of neuronal growth calls attention to the need to look at the other side of a neuron in terms of developing new therapies," Ye said. "If we use this kinase, DLK, as a drug target for axon growth, we'll have to figure out a way to block its effect on dendrites."

Ye's co-authors on the paper were Xin Wang, Jung Hwan Kim, Mouna Bazzi and Sara Robinson from the U-M Life Sciences Institute and Catherine Collins from the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Bing Ye: www.lsi.umich.edu/facultyresearch/labs/bingye

Laura J. Williams | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified

05.12.2016 | Information Technology

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>