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Identifying Genes that Promote Regeneration



May 2007 -- Regeneration occurs naturally in the injured peripheral nervous system but not the central nervous system.  An approach scientists are taking to devise regeneration strategies is to identify regeneration-associated genes.  If they can understand what genes are “turned on” in the peripheral nervous system to allow for repair, they may be able to use that information to develop gene therapies for spinal cord repair. 


Drs. John Bixby and Vance Lemmon are using a laboratory technique, subtractive hybridization, to identify genes expressed in injured peripheral neurons but not in injured central nervous system neurons.  Using data from experiments in their lab, along with information catalogued in public and private databases, they hope to discover clusters of genes that are likely to function together to promote axon growth. 


They have also developed and standardized an efficient high content screening technique that allows them to identify and test regeneration-related genes. The technique, because of its lower cost and higher efficiency, will likely replace earlier research methods.  With their technique, they can study the effects of thousands of genes on the ability of neurons to extend axons in an inhibitory environment, such as is found in the injured spinal cord.


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