Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Protein CCL2 Can Help Regenerate Damaged Nerves

Today's post from diabetescommunity.com (see link below) refers (as is so common) to diabetes, as if diabetes was the only cause of neuropathy. Experienced readers will know by now that any information regarding diabetic neuropathy also applies to many other forms of neuropathy unless there is specific reference to blood sugars. The article talks about a protein imaginatively called 'CCL2' which seems to be able to trigger regrowth in damaged nerve systems...in long-suffering mice. So it's another finding which is a long way off human application. However, it is extraordinary news that this protein has been identified as being so powerful. The suggestion is that this protein may only be effective in cases of nerve damage soon after injury (when the two ends of any damaged nerve or neuron are still 'alive') but reading more closely suggests that its effects may be more widespread than that and that it may be able to regenerate long damaged neurons. One to keep in the back of your mind for the future.

CCL2 protein helps heal damage caused by diabetic neuropathy, study finds
By Kurt Wood 11th January 2016

A signalling protein called CCL2 could enhance the regeneration of the peripheral nervous system, making it a potential treatment for diabetic neuropathy.

The research, which was conducted by researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, indicates that C-C class chemokine 2 (CCL2) aids the repair of peripheral nerve cells following injury.

“We are excited about our findings because we had no reason to expect that just expressing the chemokine CCL2 would be enough to stimulate nerve regeneration,” said senior author Richard E. Zigmund, PhD, professor of Neurosciences and Pathology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “It is remarkable that just CCL2 should be so powerful.”
How does CCL2 work?

The positive effects of CCL2 are seen primarily in peripheral nerve clusters, which are also known as ganglia. There are two parts to every peripheral nerve cell: there is the “body” of the cell, and an axon, also known as a “tail”. The tail splits into two parts when it separates from the body, and these parts have different functions. One part picks up sensations around the body; the other relays that information to the brain and spinal cord.

Peripheral nerves are quite easily damaged, whether by cuts, fractures, or disease. Diabetes is one of the most common causes of peripheral nerve damage, and we call that diabetic neuropathy. CCL2 is useful when the nerves become damaged, because it sends out inflammatory immune cells known as macrophages, which allow new axons to grow.

Testing CCL2

To test the effects of CCL2 on damaged peripheral nerves, they gave mouse models a virus designed to increase their levels of the protein. Those mice had more macrophages and a higher neuron spread, which is a key part of nerve regeneration.

Another group of mice were engineered to express no CCL2. This group had very little nerve growth.

“We did the same experiments in another type of mouse and found the same correlation,” explained Zigmond. “If macrophages don’t come into the ganglia, then regeneration is substantially impeded. We found this true of sensory and sympathetic neurons. We concluded that there was a correlation between macrophage entry into ganglia and nerve regeneration.”

A new approach to inflammation?

The study indicates that the current clinical attitude towards inflammation might be flawed. At the moment, the tendency is to fight inflammation, but it may be more effective to allow a small amount of inflammation following an injury, so that the regeneration of neurons can be stimulated.

The findings are published in Experimental Neurology.


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