Targeting neuronal maturation to promote axon regeneration following spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injury leads to permanent and severe paralysis and loss of sensation. The principal reason for this is that nerve cells connecting the brain with the rest of the body lose the capacity to regenerate their processes (axons) as they mature during development. Despite decades of progress, no regenerative therapy for the injured spinal cord is available today, in part because how nerve cell maturation suppresses regeneration remains unknown. Thus, a regenerative treatment for spinal cord injury is a major unmet need of the Canadian healthcare system.
We have discovered a molecular switch that is turned off in mature neurons and that is critical for damaged neurons to regrow axons. We will study how this molecular switch is turned off during maturation, the processes that it controls to enable growth and test whether re-activating it in mature nerve cells can promote regeneration following spinal cord injury. Collectively, our work will provide critical insight into why nerve cells fail to regenerate and will identify an innovative and effective strategy that stimulates regeneration following spinal cord injury. We anticipate that this work will be a major steppingstone towards the development of a treatment that regenerates the injured human spinal cord.
Brett Hilton , The University of British Columbia
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