Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) scientists discover persistent regenerative capacity in lamprey, which they suggest could open up a new path for identifying pro-regenerative molecules and potential therapeutic targets for human spinal cord injury.
In a study published in PLOS ONE, they document that the eel-like lamprey can fully regenerate its spinal cord even after it’s been severed, and can recover and regenerate just as impressively after a second complete spinal cord injury at the same location.
“We’ve determined that central nervous system (CNS) regeneration in lampreys is resilient and robust after multiple injuries. The regeneration is nearly identical to the first time, both anatomically and functionally,” says senior author Jennifer Morgan, director of the MBL’s Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering, in a media release.
Morgan’s lab has been focusing on the descending neurons, which originate in the brain and send motor signals down to the spinal cord. Some of these descending neurons regenerate after CNS injury in lamprey, while others die.
“We are beginning to isolate individual descending neurons and look at their transcriptional profiles (gene activity) to see if we can determine what makes some of them better at regenerating than others,” Morgan states.
“The ‘good’ regenerators, for example, may express molecules that are known to promote growth during development. That’s one hypothesis,” she adds, in the release.
Observing how the descending neurons respond to a second CNS injury can help the team tease out the factors required for repeated, resilient regeneration, which could have implications for designing better strategies for treatments aimed at promoting CNS re-growth after injury or disease.
[Source(s): Marine Biological Laboratory, EurekAlert]