Scientists have discovered the mechanism that allows severed nerves in the round worm, Caenorhabditis elegans to fuse back together again. These worms are easy to work with and to experiment with since they are transparent, simple in structure and the genetics of these worms are well known. The scientists feel that neurosurgery could be combined with molecular biology in the future to deliver clinical outcomes, and perhaps treat conditions such as spinal cord injury or vascular damage where healthy neurons are injured. This study reveals the dynamic changes in the subcellular localization of the membrane protein, EFF1, phosphatidylserine (PS) and the PS receptor (PSR-1). These three factors are critical for axonal/nerve fusion. PS functions as the ‘save me’ signal when a nerve is severed and TTR-52 (a secreted protein) binds to the exposed PS on the injured axon and helps restore fusion several hours after injury. PSR-1 functions cell-autonomously in the re-growing neuron by acting in a phagocytic pathway instead of its canonical signalling pathway. This study could help better understand nerve fusion and help regenerative medicine in the future.
The original publication can be accessed at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/full/nature14102.html
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