Genes That Aid Spinal Cord Healing in Lamprey Also Present in Humans; Lamprey Can Fully Recover from Severed Spinal Cord; Wnt Pathway Seems Crucial

Many of the genes involved in natural repair of the injured spinal cord of the lamprey are also active in the repair of the peripheral nervous system in mammals, according to a study by a collaborative group of scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and other institutions. This is consistent with the possibility that, in the long term, the same or similar genes may be harnessed to improve spinal cord injury treatment in humans. "We found a large overlap with the hub of transcription factors that are driving regeneration in the mammalian peripheral nervous system," says Jennifer Morgan, PhD, Director of the MBL's Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering, one of the authors of the study published online on January 15, 2018 in Scientific Reports. The open-access article is titled “Highly Conserved Molecular Pathways, Including Wnt Signaling, Promote Functional Recovery from Spinal Cord Injury in Lampreys.” Lampreys are jawless, eel-like fish that shared a common ancestor with humans about 550 million years ago. This study arose from the observation that a lamprey can fully recover from a severed spinal cord without medication or other treatment. "They can go from paralysis to full swimming behaviors in 10 to 12 weeks," says Dr. Morgan. "Scientists have known for many years that the lamprey achieves spontaneous recovery from spinal cord injury, but we have not known the molecular recipe that accompanies and supports this remarkable capacity," says Ona Bloom, PhD, of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, a former MBL Whitman Center Fellow who collaborated on the project.
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