Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) team has identified several genes linked with neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and spinal cord injuries. The genes were discovered in lamprey, the vertebrate fish.
Discovery helps genetics to understand where exactly, in the situation of nerve injury or neuro-degenerative disease, the failure occurs. Unlike humans, lampreys are able to regenerate nerve cells.
If, for example, lamprey injures its spinal cord, after a while the nerve cells regenerate on their own and in 10 to 12 weeks the animal regains full ability to move.
Lampreys have rather large neurons, which makes them really convenient laboratory model for future studies. Recently, scientists have decoded genome of lamprey.
The research involved 59 scientists under command of Veymin Lee from the University of Michigan and Jeremiah Smith from the University of Kentucky. The whole genome sequence was posted in the journal Nature Genetics.
The team found out that lamprey neurones' have no myelin tissue. It allows nerves to conduct impulses much faster.
It's quite possible that taking myelin protection layer off would aid in treating people with spinal injuries. Now, researchers are investigating genes activated during injury and regeneration.
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