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Impaired nerve signalling as in Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease could be rectified by boosting a protein called BDNF

25 April 2023

Traffic and Travel

Carrying messages to and from our moving limbs, neurons rely on signalling endosomes to ferry supportive chemicals along their branches or axons. Although ten million times smaller than postable parcels, here researchers use intravital imaging to capture a bustling traffic of endosomes (highlighted in blue) shuttling through a mouse’s sciatic nerve. The technique involves anaesthetising the mouse and exposing its nerve under a microscope – it reveals endosomes carrying BDNF, a type of neurotrophin which helps to keep neurons healthy. Certain genetic mutations can block BDNF traffic at junctions where nerve meets muscle, leading to weakness or muscle wasting. The team hopes designing drugs to boost BDNF may restore endosome transport and bring relief to human patients with disorders like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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