Discovery In Roundworms Could Help Us Regenerate Neurons

Credit: National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health

Researchers have stumbled across a pathway in C. elegans that enables neuronal regeneration

Using a laser to injure neurons in the model organism C. elegans, a research team discovered certain worms with specific genetic defects, or neurons that had been cut in a specific way were able to regenerate. Neurons that had two fibres cut with a laser were curiously able to renew themselves in a manner similar to earlier developmental growth.

A new pathway

The unusual finding revealed that creating specific lesions in neurons was able to regenerate these cells through a newly discovered pathway. This method isn't necessarily ideal for human usage, but if we can find ways to target the same pathway in humans it could open up new ways of treating and regenerating the central nervous system. Such research could lead to a treatment for spinal cord injury and paralysis. 

"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. 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"

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