Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers find molecule that inhibits regrowth of spinal nerve cells


A molecule that helps the body’s motor nerve cells grow along proper paths during embryonic development also plays a major role in inhibiting spinal-cord neurons from regenerating after injury, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found. In cultured cells, the researchers found that a component of myelin – a substance that normally insulates and stabilizes long nerve fibers in adult vertebrates – chemically blocks the ability of nerve cells to grow through myelin that is released when the spinal cord is damaged. While other myelin components also block nerve growth, a component called ephrin-B3 inhibits such activity as well or better than that of other known blocking agents combined, UT Southwestern researchers report in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"I believe that to the extent that overcoming myelin-based inhibition is going to provide some sort of functional recovery for spinal cord injury patients, understanding ephrins is a major step forward," said Dr. Luis Parada, senior author on the paper and director of the Center for Developmental Biology and the Kent Waldrep Center for Basic Research on Nerve Growth and Regeneration at UT Southwestern. A mixture of molecules and proteins, myelin insulates nerve fibers and impedes them from having contact with other nerve cells. After a spinal-cord injury, myelin is released into the tissues. Not only does myelin encourage the growth of scars – called glial scars – which physically block nerve cells from regrowing in the damaged area, but components of myelin also chemically prevent nerve cells from regrowing there as well.

Considerable research has been done in the past 10 years to identify elements in myelin that chemically inhibit the regeneration of nerve cells, Dr. Parada said. Three individual components – the molecules Nogo, MAG and OMgp – have been shown to do so in isolation. Developmental biologists at UT Southwestern have been studying how ephrin-B3 helps control how and where nerve fibers grow during early development. They previously showed that the molecule throws up "fences" that repel developing nerves and guide them along the pathways to their appropriate connections to muscles.

In 2002 Dr. Mark Henkemeyer, associate professor in the Center for Developmental Biology and of cell biology and one of the authors of the PNAS study, found that such a "fence" is erected specifically down the middle of the cortical spinal tract, which is damaged during spinal-cord injury.

In the current study, Dr. Parada and his colleagues asked: What is this molecule, whose normal function is to be repellent during embryonic development, doing in the mature system?

"To our surprise, we found that ephrin-B3, which normally is present as a ’wall’ down the middle of adult spinal cords, also is found in very high levels in adult myelin," said Dr. Parada.

The researchers knew from previous work that ephrin-B3 interacts with receptors on neurons in the cortical spinal cord. So, in the lab, led by the study’s lead author Dr. M. Douglas Benson, a postdoctoral research fellow, they cultured neurons together with isolated ephrin-B3 and confirmed that the molecule activated the neuron’s receptors. They then cultured normal myelin together with the neurons and got the same results.

However, when they cultured neurons with myelin from which the ephrin-B3 had been removed, the receptors were not activated. The findings suggest that there is much more to be learned about myelin-based inhibition, Dr. Parada said. "We firmly believe that ephrin-B3 is an important, functional, relevant component of myelin, although there may be other elements that are left to be discovered," he said.

Dr. Parada added that several factors must be overcome before spinal-cord regeneration and recovery from injury can occur in a meaningful way for patients.

"We have to figure out how to dissolve the glial scars or impede their formation," he said. "We also need to get mature neurons to be better at growing, similar to the way they do during embryonic development. And finally, we have to remove myelin-based inhibition. If and when we achieve those three things, then we’ll have robust regeneration of injured nerves."

Other Center for Developmental Biology researchers involved with the study were Dr. Mark Lush, postdoctoral research fellow, and Dr. Q. Richard Lu, assistant professor. Dr. Mario Romero, assistant professor of neurology, also contributed.

Amanda Siegfried | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The gene of autumn colours
27.10.2016 | Hokkaido University

nachricht Polymer scaffolds build a better pill to swallow
27.10.2016 | The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

The gene of autumn colours

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Polymer scaffolds build a better pill to swallow

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>