Health & Medicine - Posted by Emily Walker-Monash on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 9:14 - 0 Comments
Zebrafish protein bridges spinal cord injury
MONASH U. (AUS) — A protein that helps zebrafish heal their spinal cords may eventually lead to ways to stimulate regeneration in people with paralysis.
As reported in the Journal of Neuroscience, when the spinal cord is severed in humans and other mammals, the immune system kicks in, activating specialized cells called glia to prevent bleeding into it.
“Glia are the workmen of nervous system,” says Peter Currie, professor in Monash University’s Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute. “The glia proliferate, forming bigger cells that span the wound site in order to prevent bleeding into it. They come in and try to sort out problems. A glial scar forms.”
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However, the scar prevents axons, threadlike structures of nerve cells that carry impulses to the brain, of neighboring nerve cells from penetrating the wound, resulting in paralysis.
“The axons upstream and downstream of the lesion sites are never able to penetrate the glial scar to reform. This is a major barrier in mammalian spinal cord regeneration,” Currie says.
In contrast, the zebrafish glia form a bridge that spans the injury site but allow the penetration of axons into it. The fish can fully regenerate its spinal cord within two months of injury. “You can’t tell there’s been any wound at all,” he says.
Scientists discovered the protein, called fibroblast growth factor (fgf), controlled the shape of the glia, and accounted for the difference in the response to spinal cord injury between humans and zebrafish.
The protein can be manipulated in the zebrafish to speed up tissue repair even more.
“The hope is that fgf could eventually be used to promote better results in spinal cord repair in people,” Currie says.
More news from Monash University: http://www.monash.edu.au/