Many medical issues affect nerves, from injuries in car accidents and side effects of chemotherapy to glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. The common theme in these scenarios is destruction of nerve axons, the long wires that transmit signals to other parts of the body, allowing movement, sight and sense of touch, among other vital functions.
Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a way the body can remove injured axons, identifying a potential target for new drugs that could prevent the inappropriate loss of axons and maintain nerve function.
“Treating axonal degeneration could potentially help a lot of patients because there are so many diseases and conditions where axons are inappropriately lost,” said Aaron DiAntonio, MD, PhD, professor of developmental biology. “While this would not be a cure for any of them, the hope is that we could slow the progression of a whole range of diseases by keeping axons healthy.”
DiAntonio is senior author of the study that appears online May 9 in the journal Cell Reports.
DiAntonio’s major collaborators in this project include Jeffrey D. Milbrandt, MD, PhD, the James S. McDonnell Professor and head of the Department of Genetics, and first author Elisabetta Babetto, PhD, postdoctoral research scholar.
Featured article was originally published at Washington University Newsroom: Scientists show how nerve wiring self-destructs