Gene identified that links cholesterol metabolism and nerve degeneration
Unlike in the central nervous system (CNS), neurons in our peripheral nervous system can regenerate after damage. Understanding and being able to stimulate this ability would dramatically improve recovery after injuries to the CNS. Researchers recently homed in on a key gene in the process, Prom1, encoding the protein prominin-1. In cultures of mouse dorsal root ganglion neurons (pictured), and live mice, higher levels of prominin-1 led to better regrowth of damaged neuronal axons, the long nerve fibres that conduct electrical signals. This response is linked to another effect of prominin-1 which is involved in cholesterol metabolism. Increasing prominin-1 leads to lower cholesterol levels, which in turn promotes axon regeneration. Connections between cholesterol metabolism and neuronal regeneration suggest that targeting processes involving cholesterol, including with existing drugs designed to lower cholesterol levels, could potentially provide new ways of boosting neuron repair.
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