Sunday, 8 October 2017

Schwann Cells Could Be The Answer To Nerve Regeneration

Today's post from (see link below) looks at the recent discovery that certain molecules allow Schwann cells to regenerate damaged nerves. This could lead to targeted drug treatments for neuropathy in the future (can't come soon enough!). First we need to know what Schwann cells are. If you've researched neuropathy across the internet, you've likely come across this term on the way but possibly not understood what they are. Schwann cells are any of the cells in the peripheral nervous system that produce the myelin sheath around nerves. The myelin sheath is the insulation around nerve axons that protects them from damage. If the myelin is damaged, it frequently leads to the symptoms we're all aware of, so it's easy to see that Schwann cells are vital to the health of our nerves. It seems that molecules have been discovered that stimulate Schwann cells into producing myelin, so the importance of this finding is obvious. Now they need to turn this discovery into an effective drug treatment that will in fact, repair our damaged nerves and remove the pain of neuropathy. Probably much easier said than done but it's encouraging to know that scientists are on the right track. Interesting article, worth a read.

How cells adapt to help repair damage 
Date: October 5, 2017 Source: University of Edinburgh

Genetic processes that allow cells to transform so they can mend damaged nerves have been identified by scientists.

Their insights on tissue repair could advance the search for drug therapies to improve regeneration after injury, experts say.

Researchers focused on injury to cells in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) -- the crucial network of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.

The study could inform new treatments for a set of conditions known as peripheral neuropathies, which are caused by damage to the cells in the PNS and can lead to extreme sensitivity to touch as well as numbness and muscle weakness.

Scientists identified molecules that potentially allow nerve-supporting cells -- known as Schwann cells -- to transform into a specialised version that enable them to help nerves regenerate.

As well as identifying vital genes that orchestrate this transformation, the scientists discovered molecular markers that flag these Schwann cells as specialist repairers.

Genes identified by the research team -- led by the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge and University College London -- were also found to be similar to those seen in tumour formation, which could shed light on cell growth in cancers.

Peripheral neuropathy affects around one in 10 people in the UK aged over 55 and can have a severe impact on quality of life, leaving some people paralysed.

Prof Timothy Aitman, Director of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, who co-led the study, said: "Our findings give us insight into how cells in the body adapts to injury. This knowledge will help identify drug targets for much-needed therapies to help patients with peripheral neuropathy and traumatic nerve injuries."

Dr Peter Arthur-Farraj, Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow at the University of Cambridge, who co-led the study, said: "We have shown that a number of genes expressed by repair Schwann cells are similar to genes involved in the processes that lead to a number of cancers. This suggests that molecular mechanisms that have evolved to promote tissue repair are closely related to those involved in tumour formation, which could help us understand cancers."

The study was published in the journal Cell Reports and was carried out in collaboration with Imperial College London. It was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Edinburgh. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference: 

Peter J. Arthur-Farraj, Claire C. Morgan, Martyna Adamowicz, Jose A. Gomez-Sanchez, Shaline V. Fazal, Anthony Beucher, Bonnie Razzaghi, Rhona Mirsky, Kristjan R. Jessen, Timothy J. Aitman. Changes in the Coding and Non-coding Transcriptome and DNA Methylome that Define the Schwann Cell Repair Phenotype after Nerve Injury. Cell Reports, 2017; 20 (11): 2719 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.08.064

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