News of Note—A gene-based approach to regenerating spinal cords; new insight into resistant lung cancer

Washington University researchers studied mouse neurons with long tendrils to gain insight into how damaged nerve cells regenerate. (Marcus Mahar)

Regrowing damaged spinal cords by shutting down select genes

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered part of the reason that injured peripheral nerves in the arms and legs are able to repair themselves—and they believe the finding could lead to new methods for repairing damaged spinal cords. The researchers took sensory cells called dorsal root ganglion neurons from mice, grew them in the lab, cut them and then studied them as they regrew their axons. They did the same with sciatic nerve cells in mice. In doing so, they identified a set of genes related to electrical signaling that have to be turned off so axons can grow, they reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They are now undergoing further studies to determine whether silencing the same genes in neurons from the central nervous system can induce regrowth after injury. (Release)

Oncologists link enzyme with resistance to lung cancer treatment

EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors are the standard of care in treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with EGFR mutations, but many patients become resistant to the therapy. Now researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have discovered that an enzyme called protein kinase C delta lessens the effectiveness of the drugs by promoting several mechanisms of resistance. Using mouse and human tissue samples, they discovered that the enzyme is associated with worse progression-free survival after treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors. They also showed that combining AstraZeneca’s FDA-approved NSCLC treatment Iressa with an experimental kinase inhibitor called sotrastaurin was effective in mouse models. They published their research in the journal Cancer Cell. (Release)

Giant gene database sheds light on childhood diseases

Researchers at University of Utah Health have identified gene regions that are “constrained,” meaning they respond poorly to change. They believe that gene mutations in these regions are associated with seizure disorders, congenital heart defects and other serious conditions that affect children. They created a map of the regions using more than 120,000 genomes from the Genome Aggregation Database, a catalog of sequencing data from several large-scale studies. Most of the constrained regions they discovered are associated with developmental disorders and could help point to new causes and potential therapies for these diseases, they reported in the journal Nature Genetics. (Release)

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