The nerves in our peripheral nervous system work like electrical cables, carrying messages from our brain and spinal cord to the rest of our body. To help transport these messages, the nerve cell projections (also known as an axons; seen here in cross-section coloured purple) are bundled up in an insulating blanket made of Schwann cells (coloured green), which produce fatty layers of myelin (coloured black). Researchers have recently found that when a genetic pathway called the polycomb pathway is switched on, Schwann cells are redirected to restore injured axons. Changes to their genetic regulation reprograms Schwann cells to dissolve the existing myelin, and grow replacement myelin on the regenerated axon, revealing that they can have more than one role in our nervous system. This type of genetic pathway regulation could be found to play a role in other conditions associated with nerve damage.
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