Scientists Identify Gene Partnerships that Promote Spinal Cord Regeneration
Scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) have identified gene “partners” in the axolotl salamander that, when activated, allow the neural tube and associated nerve fibers to functionally regenerate after severe spinal cord damage. Interestingly, these genes are also present in humans, though they are activated in a different manner. Their results are published this week in Nature Communications Biology.
“[Axolotls are] the champions of regeneration in that they can regenerate multiple body parts. For example, if you make a lesion in the spinal cord, they can fully regenerate it and gain back both motor and sensory control,” says Karen Echeverri, associate scientist in the Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering. “We wanted to understand what is different at a molecular level that drives them towards this pro-regenerative response instead of forming scar tissue.”
Echeverri’s prior research had shown that, in both axolotls and humans, the c-Fos gene is up-regulated in the glial cells of the nervous system after spinal cord injury. She also knew that c-Fos cannot act alone.
“It’s what we call an obligate heterodimer, so it has to have a partner in life,” says Echeverri. “c-Fos has a different partner in axolotl than it has in humans and this seems to drive a completely different response to injury.”