By studying nerves in “pre-tadpole” frogs, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering have uncovered the first link between two key biological factors that guide growing nerves.
The finding sheds light on how nerves grow in the right direction so they can connect to the right places–critical information to have if damaged nerves are ever to be repaired in people. In particular, the discovery reveals for the first time how the guidance cues that attract or repel the tip of a growing nerve influence the flow of calcium ions into the nerve cell, solving a decades-old mystery.
“For 20 years researchers have known that calcium flow is critical for proper nerve growth, but no one has known how it gets into the nerve in response to a guidance cue,” says Guo-Li Ming, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology in the Institute for Cell Engineering’s Neuroregeneration and Repair Program. “Now we have some details about how that happens in frogs. The findings are likely to hold for other animals and people, too, because we have similar versions of these proteins.”
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