Regenerating Neurons

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Spinal cord injuries lead to an irreversible damage. Many neurons die, and those that survive, generally fail to grow and repair the connections that were lost. Scientists observed that certain neurons die more easily than others, but don’t know why. 

Understand to solve the problem
Scientists from Harvard University, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) collaborated for experimental studies. They decided to compare neurons that although apparently similar, die at different stages. An in-depth analysis showed that neurons express different genes depending on their resilience.

Pushing the experiments even further, they were able to switch those genes on and off, extending or diminishing the lifetime of the neurons. Surprisingly, some neurons regenerated better after manipulation.

A step further
This work allowed to identify genes that could be used to promote survival and regeneration. More interestingly, it also provides a new tool to manipulate specific neurons. In a nutshell, thanks to this study, new neuroprotective strategies could be tailored to protect a specific cell population.

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

Source:“Single-Cell Profiles of Retinal Ganglion Cells Differing in Resilience to Injury Reveal Neuroprotective Genes” by Tran NM, Shekhar K, Whitney IE, Jacobi A, Benhar I, Hong G, Yan W, Adiconis X, Arnold ME, Lee JM, Levin JZ, Lin D, Wang C, Lieber CM, Regev A, He Z, Sanes JR. Published in November 2019 in the journal Neuron.