AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 2, 2020


Discovery Offers New Genetic Pathway for Injured Nerve Regeneration

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Finding could pave road to regrowth after traumatic injuries, stroke and spinal damage


On the hunt for genes involved in regenerating critical nerve fibers called axons, biologists at the University of California San Diego came away with a surprise: The discovery of a new genetic pathway that carries hope for victims of traumatic injuries—from stroke to spinal cord damage.

UC San Diego Biological Sciences Assistant Project Scientist Kyung Won Kim, Professor Yishi Jin and their colleagues conducted a large-scale genetic screening in the roundworm C. elegans seeking ultimately to understand genetic influences that might limit nerve regrowth in humans. Unexpectedly, the researchers found the PIWI-interacting small RNA (piRNA) pathway—long believed to be restricted to function in the germline—plays an active role in neuron damage regeneration.

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