Re-growing Nerve Cells to Treat Nerve Injuries

July 14, 2010

Recent research on enhancing nerve generation in the peripheral nervous system may pave the way for developing new treatments.

Recent research on enhancing nerve generation in the peripheral nervous system may pave the way for developing new treatments for patients suffering from nerve damage caused by diabetes or traumatic injuries.

The results of a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience describe a method of enhancing this particular kind of nerve regeneration. The senior researcher on the study is Dr. Douglas Zochodne, a neurologist and professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Calgary. The lead author is Kimberly Christie, a PhD student at Zochodne’s lab. The team studied a pathway that helps nerves grow and survive and the molecular brake, PTEN, found in this pathway the helps prevent excessive cell growth. The team was able to discover for the first time that PTEN is found in the peripheral nervous system. They were also able to demonstrate that following an injury, PTEN prevents the regeneration of peripheral nerves. By blocking PTEN, the team was able to dramatically increase nerve outgrowth.

“We were amazed to see such a dramatic effect over such a short time period. No one knew that nerves in the peripheral system could regenerate in this way, nerves that can be damaged if someone has diabetes for example,” Christie said, in a press release. “This finding could eventually help people who have lost feeling or motor skills recover and live with less pain.”

"Removing the brakes on regeneration offers us a new approach. Our next steps will be to find out if the exciting rise in nerve outgrowth we have observed will result in long term benefits," Zochodne said, in a press release.