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New Roles For Growth Factors: Enticing Nerve Cells To Muscles

June 17, 2006

Filed under: Nerve Growth Factors

During embryonic development, nerve cells hesitantly extend tentacle-like protrusions called axons that sniff their way through a labyrinth of attractive and repulsive chemical cues that guide them to their target.
While several recent studies discovered molecules that repel motor neuron axons from incorrect targets in the limb, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a molecule, known as FGF, that actively lures growing axons closer to the right destination. Their findings appear in the June 15 issue of Neuron.
“The most important aspect of our finding is not necessarily that we finally nailed the growth factor FGF as the molecule that guides a specific subgroup of motor neurons to connect to the muscles that line our spine and neck,” says senior author Samuel Pfaff, Ph.D., a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory, “but that piece by piece, we are uncovering general principles that ensure that the developing nervous system establishes proper neuronal connections.” [Science Daily]

Skin stem cells aid nerve cells

June 16, 2006

Filed under: Stem Cell Research

Researchers are one step closer to repairing nerve cells and treating conditions such as spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
A new study says that stem cells found in adult skin can function after being transplanted into diseased mice.
“This shows that these stem cells found in adult skin are the real thing. We saw it in the culture dish, but now we know it’s the bona-fide real thing,” said an elated Dr. Freda Miller, senior scientist at Sick Kids hospital.
The research found that these stem cells, called skin-derived precursors or SKPs, can produce nervous system cell types called Schwann cells. These cells in turn make insulation, or myelin, and allow nerve cells to function efficiently. [Toronto Sun]