Understanding the processes implicated in tissue regeneration could help in devising novel strategies to treat a number of conditions. With this in mind, European researchers set out to study the intrinsic process of neuronal regeneration.
Throughout the body signal transmission occurs via specialised cells of the peripheral nervous system known as neurons. When neurons get damaged, a number of debilitating conditions can arise such as spinal cord injury (SCI). The mechanisms through which injured axons regenerate are still poorly described.
The EU-funded 'Microtubule dynamics and protein trafficking in axon regeneration' (MDPTAR) project investigated the intrinsic processes and mechanisms that underlie axon regeneration in neurons. The idea was that the generated information could be medically exploited to boost axonal regeneration in cases of central nervous system injury.
Remodelling of the microtubule cytoskeleton is a key step in the regeneration of axons, involving the break-down and re-polymerisation of microtubules. However, the dynamics of the microtubule cytoskeleton have been studied mainly with respect to neuronal development rather than axonal regeneration.
Researchers identified the protein-coding gene — kinesin family member 3C (KIF3C) as a key regulator of axonal growth and regeneration, which controls microtubule dynamics. KIF3C is expressed upon injury and moves to the neuronal axon where it regulates and organises the microtubule network. Adult axons lacking KIF3C displayed an impaired axonal outgrowth and delayed regeneration after injury.
Collectively, the work of the MDPTAR study offered significant knowledge on the programme of neuronal regeneration. The findings of the study could be exploited for the design of novel drugs that promote neuronal regeneration and improve the clinical picture of patients with neurological conditions.
Provided by Cordis