New research by scientists at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA overturns a long-standing paradigm about how axons — thread-like projections that connect cells in the nervous system — grow during embryonic development. The findings of the study, led by Samantha Butler, associate professor of neurobiology, could help scientists replicate or control the way axons grow, which may be applicable for diseases that affect the nervous system, such as diabetes, as well as injuries that sever nerves.
They found that neural progenitors organize axon growth by producing a pathway of netrin1 that directs axons only in their local environment and not over long distances. This pathway of netrin1 acts as a sticky surface that encourages axon growth in the directions that form a normal, functioning nervous system.
Butler’s study is a significant reinterpretation of the role of netrin1 in nervous system formation. The results further scientists’ understanding of the contribution neural progenitors make to neural circuit formation. Determining how netrin1 specifically influences axon growth could help scientists use netrin1 to regenerate axons more effectively in patients whose nerves have been damaged.Paper. (paywall) – Samantha J. Butler et al. Netrin1 Produced by Neural Progenitors, Not Floor Plate Cells, Is Required for Axon Guidance in the Spinal Cord. Neuron, April 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.03.007 More.
Curious, how often settled assumption get overturned these days. And how much of it involves communication paths.
See also: Can lampreys offer insight into the evolution of gut neurons?
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