Enhancing the mobility of energy-producing structures called mitochondria in injured neurons helps these cells to regenerate in mice.
After an injury, some young neurons can regrow their long signalling arms known as axons, but mature cells cannot. Zu-Hang Sheng of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and his colleagues knocked out a gene called Snph in cultured mouse neurons. The gene encodes a protein, syntaphilin, that anchors mitochondria inside cells. The team found that 69% of young neurons lacking the gene began to form growing tips, compared with only 44% that had the gene. Similar effects were seen in adult mice, and injured mature neurons showed an increasing ability to regenerate with declining levels of syntaphilin.
Replenishing the energy supply in damaged axons by boosting the transport of mitochondria could be one way to treat nerve injuries, the authors suggest.
J. Cell Biol. http://doi.org/bj3n (2016)
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Mitochondria make nerves grow. Nature 534, 439 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/534439e