Nav: Home

Discovery in roundworms may one day help humans with spinal cord injury and paralysis

April 11, 2016

(Boston)--A newly discovered pathway leading to the regeneration of central nervous system (CNS) brain cells (neurons) in a type of roundworm (C. elegans) sheds light on the adult human nervous system's ability to regenerate.

The findings, which appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, soon may lead to treatments that enhance nerve cell regeneration in humans with spinal cord injury and paralysis.

Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researcher and corresponding author Christopher V. Gabel, PhD explains, "We describe a new type of neuron regeneration in C. elegans that is independent of previously discovered regeneration pathways." This novel regeneration is related to a type of neuron growth that happens when animals are developing. "This is experimentally much more accessible and will allow us to study regeneration much more rapidly than before." This regeneration in C. elegans is related to a type of regeneration that occurs in the CNS of mammals.

Researchers used a pulsed laser to cut neurons and measured the amount of regenerative outgrowth. They discovered that these neurons did not typically regenerate after surgery. However, if they performed the experiments in worms with specific genetic defects or cut two different fibers of one neuron, there was robust regeneration.

"At the end of development, neurons in the adult human CNS, such as the brain and spinal cord, lose their ability to effectively regenerate in response to injury," explained Gabel, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at BUSM. This is why permanent damage and paralysis typically follow CNS injury. "But, when two lesions are made to the same neuron, remarkably, some cells in the human CNS robustly regenerate--a phenomenon known as lesion conditioning and which was strikingly similar to what we saw in our experiments with C. elegans."

Gabel expects that his team, led by lead author Samuel Chung, PhD, will be able to identify the genes contributing to this effect and envisions that C. elegans can be used as a model to study CNS regeneration in mammals. "We hope that our findings will invigorate research to enhance the human brain's innate capacity for regeneration. Ultimately, this could lead to a viable therapy for restoring to full health the many people suffering from permanent neurological damage."
-end-
This study was carried out in collaboration between researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard University.

Funding was provided by was provided by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and NIH Grant R21NS078580.

Boston University Medical Center

Related Neurons Articles:

New tool to identify and control neurons
One of the big challenges in the Neuroscience field is to understand how connections and communications trigger our behavior.
Neurons that regenerate, neurons that die
In a new study published in Neuron, investigators report on a transcription factor that they have found that can help certain neurons regenerate, while simultaneously killing others.
How neurons use crowdsourcing to make decisions
When many individual neurons collect data, how do they reach a unanimous decision?
Neurons can learn temporal patterns
Individual neurons can learn not only single responses to a particular signal, but also a series of reactions at precisely timed intervals.
A turbo engine for tracing neurons
Putting a turbo engine into an old car gives it an entirely new life -- suddenly it can go further, faster.
Brain neurons help keep track of time
Turning the theory of how the human brain perceives time on its head, a novel analysis in mice reveals that dopamine neuron activity plays a key role in judgment of time, slowing down the internal clock.
During infancy, neurons are still finding their places
Researchers have identified a large population of previously unrecognized young neurons that migrate in the human brain during the first few months of life, contributing to the expansion of the frontal lobe, a region important for social behavior and executive function.
How many types of neurons are there in the brain?
For decades, scientists have struggled to develop a comprehensive census of cell types in the brain.
Molecular body guards for neurons
In the brain, patterns of neural activity are perfectly balanced.
Engineering researchers use laser to 'weld' neurons
University of Alberta researchers have developed a method of connecting neurons, using ultrashort laser pulses -- a breakthrough technique that opens the door to new medical research and treatment opportunities.

Related Neurons Reading:

The Neuron: Cell and Molecular Biology
by Irwin B. Levitan (Author), Leonard K. Kaczmarek (Author)

The Neuron: Cell and Molecular Biology
by Irwin B. Levitan (Author), Leonard K. Kaczmarek (Author)

The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition
by W. W. Norton & Company

From Neurons to Neighborhoods : The Science of Early Childhood Development
by Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (Author), Youth, and Families Board on Children (Author), National Research Council (Author), Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development (Author), Jack P. Shonkoff (Editor), Deborah A. Phillips (Editor)

From Neuron to Brain: A Cellular and Molecular Approach to the Function of the Nervous System, Fourth Edition
by John G. Nicholls (Author), A. Robert Martin (Author), Bruce G. Wallace (Author), Paul A. Fuchs (Author)

From Photon to Neuron: Light, Imaging, Vision
by Philip Nelson (Author)

From Neuron to Brain (5th Ed)
by John G. Nicholls (Author), A. Robert Martin (Author), David A. Brown (Author), Mathew E. Diamond (Author), David A. Weisblat (Author), Paul A. Fuchs (Author)

Spiking Neuron Models: Single Neurons, Populations, Plasticity
by Wulfram Gerstner (Author), Werner M. Kistler (Author)

From Neurons to Neighborhoods: An Update: Workshop Summary
by National Research Council (Author), Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (Author), Institute of Medicine (Author), Youth, and Families Board on Children (Author), Steve Olson (Editor)

Neurons In Action 2: Tutorials and Simulations using NEURON
by John W. Moore (Author), Anne E. Stuart (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Hacking The Law
We have a vision of justice as blind, impartial, and fair — but in reality, the law often fails those who need it most. This hour, TED speakers explore radical ways to change the legal system. Guests include lawyer and social justice advocate Robin Steinberg, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, political activist Brett Hennig, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Vivek Maru.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#495 Earth Science in Space
Some worlds are made of sand. Some are made of water. Some are even made of salt. In science fiction and fantasy, planet can be made of whatever you want. But what does that mean for how the planets themselves work? When in doubt, throw an asteroid at it. This is a live show recorded at the 2018 Dragon Con in Atlanta Georgia. Featuring Travor Valle, Mika McKinnon, David Moscato, Scott Harris, and moderated by our own Bethany Brookshire. Note: The sound isn't as good as we'd hoped but we love the guests and the conversation and we wanted to...