Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Axon, Ax-off

Understanding more about how nerve fibres grow and connect in the brain and spinal cord

16 January 2020

Axon, Ax-off

Early in development, long strands grow from the beginnings of brain cells like roots from a seed. They spread together weaving a complex network of signal-carrying wires throughout the brain. The growth of these fibres, called axons (bottom part of the mouse brain section pictured, with brain cells coloured), is crucial to healthy development, but not fully understood. To learn more, researchers investigated the role of a particular protein thought to be involved, called RhoA. By experimentally silencing and activating RhoA, they found that it halts this axon extension, and in doing so precisely regulates when and where each one grows, ensuring healthy development. By adulthood, axons can extend all the way down the spine, and when they are broken can cause serious injury. Better understanding what drives their early growth might one day help encourage regrowth in spinal cord injury patients.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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