Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Mind the Gap

Immune cells called macrophages help heal nerve injury

06 March 2019

Mind the Gap

Bundles of nerve cells, or neurons, carry messages around our bodies – but injury can cut off this communication, taking away control and sensation. In these mouse neurons, though, a severed nerve is healing – artificially-coloured Schwann cells (green) surround neurons as they extend across the wound. This bridge-building is encouraged by a surprising ally – white blood cells called macrophages. Usually found chomping pathogens during an infection, here macrophages pump out a protein called Slit3 – this links up with another, Robo1, on the Schwann cells, directing growth across the divide. Human nerve injuries often leave too large a gap for this natural form of repair, but future studies will aim to help macrophages build bigger bridges, hopefully restoring the healthy traffic of electrical signals to cut off tissues.

Written by John Ankers

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