Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New discovery gives hope that nerves could be repaired after spinal cord injury

01.04.2014

A new discovery suggests it could one day be possible to chemically reprogram and repair damaged nerves after spinal cord injury or brain trauma.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the Hertie Institute, University of Tuebingen have identified a possible mechanism for re-growing damaged nerve fibres in the central nervous system (CNS). This damage is currently irreparable, often leaving those who suffer spinal cord injury, stroke or brain trauma with serious impairments like loss of sensation and permanent paralysis.

Published in Nature Communications today, the research highlights the role of a protein called P300/CBP-associated factor (PCAF), which appears to be essential for the series of chemical and genetic events that allow nerves to regenerate. Regenerating nerve fibres is one of the best hopes for those suffering from CNS damage to recover.

When researchers injected PCAF into mice with damage to their central nervous system, this significantly increased the number of nerve fibres that grew back, indicating that it may be possible to chemically control the regeneration of nerves in the CNS.

"The results suggest that we may be able to target specific chemical changes to enhance the growth of nerves after injury to the central nervous system," said lead study author Professor Simone Di Giovanni, from Imperial College London's Department of Medicine. "The ultimate goal could be to develop a pharmaceutical method to trigger the nerves to grow and repair and to see some level of recovery in patients. We are excited about the potential of this work but the findings are preliminary.

"The next step is to see whether we can bring about some form of recovery of movement and function in mice after we have stimulated nerve growth through the mechanism we have identified. If this is successful, then there could be a move towards developing a drug and running clinical trials with people. We hope that our new work could one day help people to recover feeling and movement, but there are many hurdles to overcome first," he added.

The researchers were interested in understanding how axons in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) make a vigorous effort to grow back when they are damaged, whereas CNS axons mount little or no effort. If damage occurs in the peripheral nervous system, which controls areas outside of the brain and spinal cord, about 30% of the nerves grow back and there is often recovery of movement and function. The researchers wanted to explore whether it was possible to generate a similar response in the CNS.

Co-author Dr Radhika Puttagunta from the University of Tuebingen said: "With this work we add another level of understanding into the specific mechanisms of how the body is able to regenerate in the PNS and have used this knowledge to drive regeneration where it is lacking in the CNS. We believe this will help further our understanding of mechanisms that could enhance regeneration and physical recovery after CNS injury."

To investigate the differences between how the two systems respond to damage, the researchers looked at mouse models and cells in culture. They compared the responses to PNS damage and CNS damage in a type of neuron called a dorsal root ganglion, which connects to both the CNS and the PNS.

They found that epigenetic mechanisms were at the core of this capacity to regenerate. Epigenetic mechanisms are processes that, without altering our DNA, manage to activate or deactivate genes in response to the environment. They normally take the form of chemical reactions and have been shown to control how genes influence diseases such as cancer and diabetes. However this is the first demonstration of a specific epigenetic mechanism responsible for nerve regeneration.

When nerves are damaged in the PNS, the damaged nerves send 'retrograde' signals back to the cell body to switch on an epigenetic program to initiate nerve growth. Very little was previously known about the mechanism which allows this 'switching on' to occur.

The researchers identified the sequence of chemical events that lead to the 'switching on' of the program to initiate nerve regrowth and pinpointed the protein PCAF as being central to the process. Furthermore when they injected PCAF into mice with damage to their central nervous system, there was a significant increase in the number of nerve fibres that grew back.

###

The research was funded by the Hertie Foundation, the Wings for Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation and the German Research Foundation (DFG).

For more information please contact:

Franca Davenport
Research Media Officer
Imperial College London
Email: f.davenport@imperial.ac.uk
Tel: +44(0)20 7594 2198
Out of hours duty press officer: +44(0)7803 886 248

Notes to editors

1. Reference: R. Puttagunta et al. 'PCAF-dependent epigenetic changes promote axonal regeneration in the central nervous system', Nature Communications (2014), doi: 10.1038/n-comms4527.

2. About Imperial College London

Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial's contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable sources of energy and address security challenges.

In 2007, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust formed the UK's first Academic Health Science Centre. This unique partnership aims to improve the quality of life of patients and populations by taking new discoveries and translating them into new therapies as quickly as possible.

Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk

Franca Davenport | EurekAlert!

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Newly discovered 'multicomponent' virus can infect animals
26.08.2016 | US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

nachricht Symmetry crucial for building key biomaterial collagen in the lab
26.08.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Streamlining accelerated computing for industry

PyFR code combines high accuracy with flexibility to resolve unsteady turbulence problems

Scientists and engineers striving to create the next machine-age marvel--whether it be a more aerodynamic rocket, a faster race car, or a higher-efficiency jet...

Im Focus: X-ray optics on a chip

Waveguides are widely used for filtering, confining, guiding, coupling or splitting beams of visible light. However, creating waveguides that could do the same for X-rays has posed tremendous challenges in fabrication, so they are still only in an early stage of development.

In the latest issue of Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations and Advances , Sarah Hoffmann-Urlaub and Tim Salditt report the fabrication and testing of...

Im Focus: Piggyback battery for microchips: TU Graz researchers develop new battery concept

Electrochemists at TU Graz have managed to use monocrystalline semiconductor silicon as an active storage electrode in lithium batteries. This enables an integrated power supply to be made for microchips with a rechargeable battery.

Small electrical gadgets, such as mobile phones, tablets or notebooks, are indispensable accompaniments of everyday life. Integrated circuits in the interiors...

Im Focus: UCI physicists confirm possible discovery of fifth force of nature

Light particle could be key to understanding dark matter in universe

Recent findings indicating the possible discovery of a previously unknown subatomic particle may be evidence of a fifth fundamental force of nature, according...

Im Focus: Wi-fi from lasers

White light from lasers demonstrates data speeds of up to 2 GB/s

A nanocrystalline material that rapidly makes white light out of blue light has been developed by KAUST researchers.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The energy transition is not possible without Geotechnics

25.08.2016 | Event News

New Ideas for the Shipping Industry

24.08.2016 | Event News

A week of excellence: 22 of the world’s best computer scientists and mathematicians in Heidelberg

12.08.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Symmetry crucial for building key biomaterial collagen in the lab

26.08.2016 | Health and Medicine

Volcanic eruption masked acceleration in sea level rise

26.08.2016 | Earth Sciences

Moth takes advantage of defensive compounds in Physalis fruits

26.08.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>