Weizmann Institute findings might advance search for new therapies for injured nerve fibers
Long distance messengers star in many heroic tales, perhaps the most famous being the one about the runner who carried the news about the victory of the Greeks over the Persians in the fateful battle of Marathon. A team of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science has now discovered how molecular messengers perform a crucial role in the ability of injured nerve cells to heal themselves.
A nerve cell has a cell body and a long extension, called an axon, which in humans can reach up to one meter in length. Nerve cells belonging to the peripheral nervous system can regrow when their axons are damaged. But how does the damaged axon inform the cell body that it must start producing vital proteins for the healing? Thats precisely where the molecular messengers, proteins called Erk-1 and Erk-2, enter the picture. When the axon is injured, these proteins bind to molecules of phosphorus. In this phosphorylated state, they can communicate to command centers in the cell, transmitting a message that activates certain genes in the cell body, which then manufactures proteins that are vital for the healing of the injured axon. The problem is that the messengers must transmit their phosphorus message over a great distance along the axon, and in the course of this arduous journey can easily lose their phosphorus en route.
Alex Smith | EurekAlert!
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