Featured Research

EphB signalling directs peripheral nerve regeneration through Sox2-dependent Schwann cell sorting

Nerves in the body connect to the central nervous system allowing us to move, feel, and breathe. Remarkably these nerves are capable of extensive regeneration even after a severe injury. These repair processes underlie the success of re-establishing function following for example, amputation of a limb.

When a nerve is cut, the axons of the nerve have to regrow back to their targets requiring organised, directed migration. In this study, we have found an important role for two other cell types in this repair process and determined the signalling molecules involved. One of these cell types is called Schwann cells and in the uninjured state they wrap around the axons of the nerve and have an important role in the fast transmission of nerve signals. Upon injury however, they revert to a progenitor-like state and in this state help the nerve to repair. Nerve Cut

The second cell type is the fibroblast. Fibroblasts are known to be important in injury secreting factors important for bringing immune cells to the injury site and helping to create scar tissue. In this study, we find that fibroblasts act in a completely different way to heal the injury. Attracted to the wound site they come into direct contact with Schwann cells. Molecules on the surface of the fibroblast touch molecules on the surface of the Schwann cells making them “stick” to each other but to be repulsed by the fibroblasts.

This results in the outgrowth of cords of Schwann cells from the cut nerve and these cords take the regrowing axons back to their targets. Interestingly, tumours in the nervous system frequently arise in Schwann cells. These tumours often spread along the nerves in a manner resembling the process seen in the injured nerve. We are hopeful that the molecules we have discovered to be important in the repair process may also be involved in the spread of the tumour cells. Moreover, many other tumour types appear to spread in a similar fashion, so it will be of great interest to explore the role of these molecules in the spread of tumours in other tissues.

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Page last modified on 26 jan 11 09:38