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Manipulating a single gene dramatically improves regeneration in adult neurons: Finding may lead to new approaches for treating brain and spinal cord damage

s of the neurons, Dr. Condic says. However, it should be much easier to regulate gene expression in specific neurons than to change the environment of the brain. The nervous system is a very big place, and right now we dont have the technology to modulate the total environment of the brain, Dr. Condic explains. Because the nervous system is so complex, there is also a risk that changes to the environment of the brain could inadvertently harm neurons outside of the damaged area and result in problems such as epilepsy or increased sensitivity to pain.

It may eventually be possible to modify integrin genes with a type of switch that is controlled by drugs or other chemicals and inject those genes into a damaged area of the brain, says Dr. Condic. Doctors could then add and subtract the chemical to turn the genes on and off, allowing them to precisely control the amount of nerve fiber growth in that region of the brain. However, an approach of this type is still theoretical, and more research is needed before scientists can predict whether such a technique might work in humans.

Dr. Condic and colleagues are now planning to study integrin gene expression in an animal model with a type of spinal cord injury that is common in humans. This is the next critical step, she says. At this point, all systems look go with blazing green lights but in animals, its much more complicated.


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Contact: Natalie Frazin
301-496-5751
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
30-Jun-2001


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