Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New growth-stimulating cue identified for nerve cells

24.07.2003


Bathed in nutrients, but in the absence of any particular cue, axons will extend from cortex nerve cells in all directions (top image). Toss in a growth stimulator like semaphorin-7a, and axon growth is heavier nearest the cue (bottom image). Credit: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Nature.


For decades, scientists have hunted for signals that guide nerve cells’ tentacle-like axons, hoping to understand how these cell tips reach out to distant targets. It’s knowledge that might one day help researchers learn how to rebuild nerves lost to spinal cord injuries or diseases like Huntington’s.

Now, a Johns Hopkins team studying a family of proteins best known for repelling axons and inhibiting their growth reports finding one member that unexpectedly promotes axon growth instead. In their experiments, rat nerves in the lab grew more and longer axons on the side nearest a source of this protein, called semaphorin-7a. Moreover, in mice without semaphorin-7a, axons of some odor-sensing nerve cells never reached their targets, the scientists report in the July 24 issue of Nature.

"I’ve been studying semaphorins for about a decade and didn’t expect to find any that stimulated axon growth, certainly not to the extent we saw in the lab and in mice," says Alex Kolodkin, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience in The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. "Now we need to figure out how semaphorins balance their repulsive and attractive effects."



Part of the answer to this paradox, Kolodkin says, is that semaphorin-7a interacts with different proteins than its relatives. In experiments with rat nerve cells involved in sensing odors, first author and postdoctoral fellow Jeroen Pasterkamp, Ph.D., found that semaphorin-7a spurs axon growth by hooking onto proteins called integrins, which are found on nerves and many other cell types.

Among their many roles, integrins (pronounced IN-teh-grins) help control cells’ interactions with their surroundings by capturing chemical signals and conveying the messages to cells’ internal machinery. Even though this is the first report to link semaphorins and integrins, both protein families are rapidly being recognized as major contributors to neurological function and disease, says Kolodkin.

"Because integrins are important throughout the body, targeting them to stimulate axon growth or re-growth in a particular area of the brain or spinal cord presents many problems," notes Pasterkamp. "Our next steps are to find out exactly how semaphorin-7a’s message is passed along inside the nerve, which will hopefully reveal a useful, specific target for promoting axon growth following nerve injury or degeneration."

As the researchers learn more of the specifics about how semaphorin-7a differs from its relatives, they also hope to redraw their picture of how semaphorins as a family affect nerve development throughout life, they say.

Joanna Downer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nature
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

nachricht Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>