RNA associated with the nerve healing process identified

Inducing expression of anti-sense RNA (right) inhibits the production of myelin (red) in mouse nerve cells compared to unaltered controls (on the left). The ability to control the newly discovered RNA might aid in efforts to promote nerve healing. Credit: Tapinos et. al.

Scientists may have identified a new opening to intervene in the process of healing peripheral nerve damage with the discovery that an "anti-sense" RNA (AS-RNA) is expressed when nerves are injured. Their experiments in mice show that the AS-RNA helps to regulate how damaged nerves rebuild their coating of myelin, which, like the cladding around a cable or wire, is crucial for making nerves, efficient conductors.

[The..] team was able to control the expression of the AS-RNA in the lab and therefore the transcription factor Egr2 that prompts myelin-building Schwann cells into action.

"Even though Schwann cells are able to re-myelinate the peripheral nerves after injury, this re-myelination is almost never complete and the functionality of the nerve is usually not restored to the levels prior to the injury," [..] "Since the AS-RNA inhibits the expression of Egr2, which is the central transcriptional regulator of myelin genes, it is possible that inhibiting or regulating the levels of the AS-RNA will enhance the transcription of myelin related genes and hence myelination."

They also demonstrated the effect it has, which is to inhibit Egr2 and therefore guide Schwann cells to demyelinate the nerve. After nerve injury, the cells remove the myelin, guide new nerve growth and then re-myelinate the regrown nerve. [...] Later, when new nerve growth has occurred, the AS-RNA expression dies down to allow the re-myelination to occur.

In further experiments, the team learned which molecules stimulate the expression of the AS-RNA and they also successfully interfered with its activity, which delayed demyelination.

News Reference Medical Express

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