Scientists regenerate damaged neurons

Scientists at Boston's Children's Hospital have discovered a way to regenerate damaged nerve cells. In the mouse study, published in the November 7 issue of Science, researchers found that silencing the PTEN and TSC1 growth inhibitors, which prevent mature neurons from regenerating, allowed damaged nerve cells to recover and re-grow after damage.

Two weeks after brain damage, up to 50 percent of injured neurons in the mice with PTEN or TSC1 deletions survived, compared with 20 percent of those without deletions. Of the surviving mice with genetic changes, up to 10 percent showed significant regrowth of axons, the projections of neurons that transmit signals, over long distances. This regrowth increased over time, according to the group's statement.

Although this study used genetic techniques, it may be possible to accomplish the same re-growth through pharmacologic means, said Zhigang He, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology at Children's and senior author on the paper "This is the first time it has been possible to see such significant regeneration by manipulating single molecules," says He. "We believe that these findings have opened up the possibility for making small-molecule drugs or developing other approaches to promote axon regeneration."

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