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Researchers identify protein required to regrow injured nerves in limbs

• medicalxpress.com, byWashington University School

The finding, in , has implications for improving recovery after in the extremities. It also opens new avenues of investigation toward triggering in the central nervous system, notorious for its inability to heal.

Peripheral nerves provide the and drive the muscles that move arms and legs, hands and feet. Unlike nerves of the central nervous system, can regenerate after they are cut or crushed. But the mechanisms behind the regeneration are not well understood.

In the new study, published online June 20 in Neuron, the scientists show that a protein called dual leucine zipper (DLK) regulates signals that tell the nerve cell it has been injured – often communicating over distances of several feet. The protein governs whether the neuron turns on its regeneration program.

"DLK is a key molecule linking an to the nerve's response to that injury, allowing the nerve to regenerate," says Aaron DiAntonio, MD, PhD, professor of developmental biology. "How does an injured nerve know that it is injured? How does it take that information and turn on a regenerative program and regrow connections? And why does only the peripheral nervous system respond this way, while the central nervous system does not? We think DLK is part of the answer." 

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