Bringing forward functional recovery

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Pericytes cells form, together with other cells a scar after a spinal cord injury. This “fibrotic” scar prevents regeneration. By inhibiting the proliferation of pericytes, Dr. Christian Göritz, from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden managed to promote functional regeneration.

Exciting and inhibiting neurons
Dr. Marisa Karow, from the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich has been collaborating with Dr. Göritz and managed to push the project even further.
By using a special technique (reprogramming), she was able to force the adult human pericytes to transform into neurons. These cells are expected to have the potential to integrate in the damaged tissue and increase the amount of recovery.
In this work, she shed more light on the underlying biological processes: She found that the treated cells followed a stepwise process during the reprogramming, imitating the kind of transformation that usually happens during embryonic development. They also transformed in both exciting and inhibiting neurons, meaning that they have the potential to replace both types of missing neurons.

A future perspective
By combining both approaches, Dr. Karow and Dr. Göritz might diminish the inhibition from the scar. In the future, creating new neurons using this approach could lead to functional recovery after a spinal cord injury.

This study was published in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience and was supported by Wings for Life.


Source: “Direct pericyte-to-neuron reprogramming via unfolding of a neural stem cell-like program”. Karow M, Camp JG, Falk S, Gerber T, Pataskar A, Gac-Santel M, Kageyama J, Brazovskaja A, Garding A, Fan W, Riedemann T, Casamassa A, Smiyakin A, Schichor C, Götz M, Tiwari VK, Treutlein B, Berninger B. Nature Neuroscience, July 2018.