Neurobiologists at UC San Diego have discovered how signals that orchestrate the construction of the nervous system also influence recovery after traumatic injury. They also found that manipulating these signals can enhance the return of function.
Most people who suffer traumatic injuries have incomplete lesions of neural circuits whose function can be partially restored from the reconfiguration of the spared circuits with rehabilitative training. But the mechanisms are not well understood.
In this week’s issue of Nature Neuroscience, biologists at UC San Diego report that removing the gene that encodes Ryk, a cell surface receptor for signaling proteins that control the wiring of the nervous system in development, enhances the ability of adult mice to remodel their neural circuits for the recovery of fine motor control after spinal cord injury.
“Our new study now provides the first genetic evidence that those signaling proteins, important in wiring the nervous system in development, have a profound influence on how central nervous system axons respond to spinal cord injury,” said Yimin Zou, a professor in the Neurobiology Section of UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences, who headed the research team. “This suggests that many other guidance cues, in addition to these signaling proteins, may also play roles in adult spinal cord repair. This opens up new opportunities to apply what we’ve learned in nervous system development to treat paralysis in adulthood.”
Ryk controls remapping of motor cortex during functional recovery after spinal cord injury. ABSTRACT