A mutant protein can protect injured nerve fibers from degeneration, reports a study in the December issue of Nature Neuroscience. Expression of this protein in neurons results in a significant slowing of the fiber degeneration normally observed after a nerve is cut. A similar type of degeneration occurs in a variety of neurological disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and toxic neuropathy, so insights gained from this discovery could lead to new treatments for these diseases.
The authors, from laboratories in the UK, Germany and Italy, found that a previously described protective genetic mutation could lead to the production of a mutant protein that consisted of the fusion of two apparently unrelated proteins. They directly expressed the fusion protein in the neurons of transgenic mice to test whether this protein could be responsible for the protection observed to result from the mutation. This discovery not only opens new therapeutic possibilities through the use of the fusion protein itself, but also may help scientists to determine how the nerves are protected by looking at the functions of the two fused proteins.
Dr. Michael P. Coleman
Institute for Genetics
University of Cologne, Germany
Tel: +49 221 470 4847
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
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