Understanding roundworm nerve regeneration mechanism and its molecular pathways could help nerve injury treatment.

Certain types of nerve injury, such as those from automobile accidents and falls, can damage or sever the axons that connect neurons and allow them to communicate with each other. Although axons elsewhere in the body can regenerate to some extent after such damage, those in nerves are far less capable, resulting in long-lasting or permanent impairment.

Treating such injuries requires clarification of how certain nerves are induced to regenerate and which molecular pathways are involved. Nerve regeneration after nerve injury is therefore an issue of special interest, but is difficult to study in humans.

To shed light on how damaged nerves are induced to regenerate, the researchers investigated various strains of roundworm in which different genes were mutated or inactivated. When certain proteins encoded by these genes were absent or dysfunctional in the worms, their nerves were less able to regenerate, particularly during adulthood. Authors believe that “Our findings should therefore lead us to targets in humans that we can use to improve recovery after nerve injury by promoting regrowth of damaged axons.”

Publication: The Core Molecular Machinery Used for Engulfment of Apoptotic Cells Regulates the JNK Pathway Mediating Axon Regeneration in Caenorhabditis elegans.
doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0453-16.2016

Press Release: Unraveling roundworm nerve regeneration mechanism could aid nerve injury treatment