A treatment applied three days after optic nerve injury greatly improves regeneration, reports a paper in the June 2006 issue of Nature Neuroscience.
Central nervous system injuries cannot heal, leaving patients impaired for life. Many interventions improve regrowth of injured nerve fibers in animal models, but these treatments often need to be applied at or before injury, making them difficult to use in humans.
Larry Benowitz and colleagues had previously found, in rats, that inflammation in the eye fostered regeneration of the optic nerve, which leads from the eye to the brain. It remained unclear, though, exactly what about the inflammation was beneficial. The authors now report that a certain cell type activated by inflammation releases the protein oncomodulin, and that oncomodulin, in combination with two other small molecules, greatly enhances regeneration of optic nerve without the need for inflammation. In contrast to many other interventions in animal models, this treatment is effective when applied days after the injury, raising hopes for therapy. It remains to be seen whether oncomodulin works in spinal cord injuries, and whether it is effective in people.
Larry Benowitz, (Harvard Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
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