A new way to enhance nerve growth following injury


April 22, 2014
Brain & Behavior, Health

New research published today out of the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) uncovers a mechanism to promote growth in damaged nerve cells as a means to restore connections after injury. Dr. Doug Zochodne and his team have discovered a key molecule that directly regulates nerve cell growth in the damaged nervous system. His study was published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, with lead authors Drs. Kim Christie and Anand Krishnan.

“We made the surprising discovery that a protein called Retinoblastoma (Rb) is present in adult neurons,” explains Zochodne. “This protein appears to normally act as a brake – preventing nerve growth. What we have shown is that by inactivating Rb, we can release the brake and coax nerves to grow much faster,” says Zochodne, a professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

Zochodne and his team decided to look for Rb in nerve cells because of its known role in regulating cell growth elsewhere in the body.

“We know that cancer is characterized by excessive cell growth and we also know that Rb is often functioning abnormally in cancer,” says Zochodne. “So if cancer is able to release this brake and increase cell growth, we thought we’d try to mimic this same action in nerve cells and encourage growth where we want it.”

The researchers were able to shut down Rb for a short amount of time and did not observe any negative results, leading them to feel optimistic that this could one day be used as a safe treatment for patients suffering from nerve damage.

So far, Zochodne is only investigating this technique in the peripheral nervous system. Peripheral nerves connect the brain and spinal cord to the body and without them, there is no movement or sensation. Peripheral nerve damage can be incredibly debilitating, with patients experiencing symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness or difficulty coordinating hands, feet, arms or legs.

For example, diabetic neuropathy is more common than multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) combined. More than half of all diabetics have some form of nerve pain and currently there is no treatment to stop damage or reverse it.

Developing safe and effective therapies for conditions such as peripheral nerve disorders requires the ability to take investigations from cells in a petri dish to patients in a clinic. Zochodne and his team have been able to do that thanks in part to a preclinical facility that opened at the HBI in 2010. The Regeneration Unit in Neurobiology (RUN) was created through a partnership between the HBI, the University of Calgary and the Canada-Alberta Western Economic Partnership Agreement.

“The RUN facility has been critical for this research, says Zochodne. “It provides the resources and cutting-edge equipment that we need all in one facility. RUN has allowed us to take this idea from nerve cells, to animal models and eventually will help us investigate whether it could be a feasible treatment in humans. It’s an incredible asset”.


, , , , , , ,

12 Responses to A new way to enhance nerve growth following injury

  1. A. Meyer 14038863 May 4, 2014 at 12:41 am #

    A fascinating discovery that can lead to both the cure of nerve related disorders and also cancer. This knowledge and further study of the Rb protein can lead to the cure of many disorders which affect parts of the nervous system as well as help people who have been in everyday occurring accidents that can lead to their paralysis. Many can be saved from a life where they are unable to use their limbs. If a treatment can be produced from this research to inactivate the works of Rb, surely a reversed treatment which activates it can be formulated. If able to do so it might be possible to stop the excessive growth of cells associated with cancer.

  2. 14121124 May 2, 2014 at 2:19 am #

    The possibility of being able to enhance nerve regeneration would change the way we look at nerve injuries, we could view them as treatable rather then permanent tragedies.

    However a solution to peripheral nerve damage is only being investigated when personally I see a greater need for a solution to central nervous system injuries with the vast number of car, motorbike and others accidents that result in paralysis.

    Another question to be asked is if a similar mechanism is utilised by cancerous cells, what prevents nerve cells which are being forced to reproduce at a rapid rate, from becoming cancerous?

    Through turning off the ‘break’ function of the Retinoblastoma protein , how are specific nerve cells targeted, and not all nerve cells? Would a similar process as used in gene therapy be used, where only genes in a specific location are altered to target a certain area.

    If the growth of nerves can be successfully enhanced, it could be beneficial to people suffering from a wide variety of injuries, diseases and disorders.

  3. 14121124 May 2, 2014 at 2:04 am #

    The possibility of being able to enhance nerve regeneration would change the way we look at nerve injuries, we could view them as treatable rather then permanent tragedies.

    However a solution to peripheral nerve damage is only being investigated when personally I see a greater need for a solution to central nervous system injuries with the vast number of car, motorbike and others accidents that result in paralysis.

    Another question to be asked is if a similar mechanism is utilised by cancerous cells, what prevents nerve cells which are being forced to reproduce at a rapid rate, from becoming cancerous?

    Through turning off the ‘break’ function of the Retinoblastoma protein , how are specific nerve cells targeted, and not all nerve cells? Would a similar process as used in gene therapy be used, where only genes in a specific location are altered to target a certain area.

    If the growth of nerves can be successfully enhanced, it could be beneficial to people suffering from a wide variety of injuries, diseases and disorders.

  4. Givarn Seetal (14050252) April 30, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    This discovery is indeed incredible. If research with Rb is continued and favourable results are obtained, then new doors will be opened not only with regard to fixing damaged nerves- but also in the fields of organ and tissue regeneration. This will provide people have suffered injuries from accidents with a second chance at a the life they once had. The price benefits of implementing this treatment for patients would see them save money by avoiding painkiller costs and rehabilitation.

    Despite the limitless benefits of this treatment, I can help but agree with 14065950 and their view of the extensive research required to ensure that this treatment does not have any severe ide effects. To test and ensure that this treatment is actually safe may mean that it will be a good few years before we see nerve re-growth implemented in public healthcare facilities.

    I feel that research in this area of medicine will open new methods, ideologies and treatments of injury and disease induced through accidents. It may even provide cures for people born with disabilities, which will be quite remarkable.

  5. 14111561 April 30, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Wow. This is an absolutely mind blowing discovery. A big mind changer as nerve cells had always been those cells in the body that couldn’t be repaired and only broken, it seems this discovery speaks hope for future treatments of nerve restoration. To think that there is a small protein (Retinoblastoma) that is designed stop cell growth is amazing, but what’s more amazing is that it can be altered and have such adverse effects to the point of leading to the restoring of broken nerve tissue. Restoring broken nerve tissue would be a total break through! Hopefully soon – from this discovery – more doors will be opened that lead to more medical breakthroughs and finally treatments that will let us see paraplegics walk again.

  6. 14095395 April 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Amazing!!!This new discovery is the one that I feel is the most needed one to date.If this protein can turn into a treatment available for nerve damaged patients then this blue globe would be filled with cheerful faces.

    There are so many people who suffer from these nerve damage insidence unexpectedly such as a nerve cell damaged by a surgeon or the position a patient is placed in for a operation can stretch a nerve and damage it.Swelling in the area after the operation can damage nerves as well .

    This tiny yet complicated cell causes so much torture to one’s physical body and emotional being as well .So to have a dedicated and talented team such as this one to help change lives is absolutely amazing .Maybe now less lives will be lost in the operation rooms.

  7. u14014442 April 26, 2014 at 5:13 am #

    this is a great new development for medical purposes and can enhance the regeneration of neurons in the brain after suffering brain damage and can relieve a lot of people of chronic pain from a previous accident. This can be done by something as simple as inhibiting a protein which can be very easy to do. I also know that painkillers are very expensive and not all medical aids will pay them or even pay a part , this will relieve a lot of people from a very tight financial budget and can bea more permanent solution from painkilers . Painkillers are also addictive so it will also lower the rates of addicted people because they will not be forced to drink painkillers daily which leads to addiction.

  8. 14021880- Michelle Morgan April 23, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

    This is brilliant, simply because unlike most cells in our body that constantly replace themselves with new cells throughout our lives, nerve cells have been known to be the one type of cells that cannot be repaired nor replaced once they have been damaged. Nerve damage causes a lot of pain and suffering to millions of people across the world caused by cases like paralysis and degenerative nerve disease. This new finding will completely change the way we look at nerve cells in the future and will also better millions of people’s lives across the world!

  9. Twane Bester 14009804 April 23, 2014 at 2:51 am #

    The discovery of the Rb protein in neurons will have an enormous impact on future research which will be done on nerve damage and treatments for nerve damage. Successful inactivation of the protein and repair of a damaged nerve could help change millions of people’s lives. This article has made me think about whether they will be able to reverse or stop nerve damage if it is severe. Will diabetics be able to live without nerve pain? Will they be able to repair peripheral nerve damage? If the Rb protein plays a role in cancer forming when it is functioning abnormally, will we be able to reverse the abnormal functioning? Continuous research will have to be done for years to come but the impact that this research will have on people who suffer from nerve damage will last a lifetime.

  10. 14065950 April 22, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    The profound discovery of this regulatory protein Retinoblastoma could hold the key to the potential freedom for patients affected by peripheral nerve injuries all across the world. Despite the many promises this discovery holds, for it to be effectively incorporated into the field of medical praxis, extensive research on the short and long term effects of such protein manipulation will be required. The danger lying within the function of the protein; regulation, which if inhibited too strongly for a long period of time could result in cancerous cell development or tumourous nerve-cell formation. Any such research on Rb-protein manipulation should not be treated lightly despite its many promising qualities.

  11. 14025354 April 22, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    This research could lead to breakthroughs in treating central nervous system injuries, which could one day allow paraplegics to walk again. This is wonderful.

  12. 14168244 April 22, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    This will be beneficial for sports players. The likes of Cassius Clay and many more who are still participating.
    The general public will also benefit from too.

Leave a Reply

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *