An international team of researchers has found a new way to regenerate optic nerve cells taken from mice and grown in a dish. This new way potentially can be used to develop a treatment for severe eye diseases like glaucoma and thus gives hope for patients.
A paper outlining the new method appeared recently in Nature Communications journal
“What we’ve seen is the strongest regeneration of any technique we’ve used before,” said ophthalmologist Keith Martin from the University of Melbourne in Australia and an author of the paper.
“In the past, it seemed impossible we would be able to regenerate the optic nerve but this research shows the potential of gene therapy to do this,” Keith added.
Though the current study is in its early stages, it has mainly focused on understanding how a molecule called protrudin works to support cell growth. Protrudin is a frame like molecule present in sprouting neurons.
The researchers showed that increasing protrudin production stimulated regeneration of nerve cells that had been cut by a laser. It was observed that the spindly axons regenerated over longer distances that too in less time than untreated cells.
The team of researchers then stimulated nerve cells of the eye to produce more protrudin, to check if this would help protect the nerve cells from damage and can it self-repair after injury.
After that, adult mice were given an injection straight into the eye which carried instructions for nerve cells to bump up protrudin production.
The mice with the injection had more surviving nerve cells in their retinas even after an optic injury compared to the control group did.
Scientists also found that the protrudin was protecting optic nerves even after the retina was completely removed.
The next step in this interesting research will be to find if protrudin has the same effects in cultured human retinal cells.
Veselina Petrova, Craig S. Pearson, Jared Ching, James R. Tribble, Andrea G. Solano, Yunfei Yang, Fiona M. Love, Robert J. Watt, Andrew Osborne, Evan Reid, Pete A. Williams, Keith R. Martin, Herbert M. Geller, Richard Eva & James W. Fawcett Protrudin functions from the endoplasmic reticulum to support axon regeneration in the adult CNS Nature Communications DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19436-y