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 Oestrogen regulates pathological changes of bones via bone lining cells
28.07.2017 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

nachricht Programming cells with computer-like logic
27.07.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Abrupt motion sharpens x-ray pulses

Spectrally narrow x-ray pulses may be “sharpened” by purely mechanical means. This sounds surprisingly, but a team of theoretical and experimental physicists developed and realized such a method. It is based on fast motions, precisely synchronized with the pulses, of a target interacting with the x-ray light. Thereby, photons are redistributed within the x-ray pulse to the desired spectral region.

A team of theoretical physicists from the MPI for Nuclear Physics (MPIK) in Heidelberg has developed a novel method to intensify the spectrally broad x-ray...

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New 3-D imaging reveals how human cell nucleus organizes DNA and chromatin of its genome

28.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heavy metals in water meet their match

28.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Oestrogen regulates pathological changes of bones via bone lining cells

28.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>