Neuronal regeneration shows potential for multi-faceted applications

Neuronal+regeneration+shows+potential+for+multi-faceted+applications

In the world of high school sports, head injuries are all too common.

A 2013 study by Naznin Virji-Babul, a researcher at the Child and Family Research Institute, showed evidence of major alterations to the configuration of the white matter in adolescents, especially after sports-related injuries. In addition, young brains are more susceptible to loss of nutrient flow to the brain.

While the short-term effects of concussions include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, and lack of motor coordination, longer term effects such as memory loss may last weeks or months after the incident. As the study suggests, head trauma may have a more permanent effect on brain structure.

The length of the recovery from a concussion is deeply rooted in the rate at which damaged neurons can repair themselves. The more quickly neurons around the site of the damage can grow and repair connections, the faster players can return to their sports.

“Players should proceed with caution and consider their own benefit before that of the team when deciding when to return to playing,” said Mark Hannum, director of the Neuroscience Research lab.

Two members of the Neuroscience lab are conducting their own research into neuronal regeneration. Yash Maniar and Siddharth Sivakumar are testing the effect of aspirin on the rate of neuronal regeneration in leeches.

By pinching the central nerve cord, they cause an injury on the neuron, prompting the leech to heal itself. Using an electroencephalography imaging device, they are able to measure the thickness of the nerve cord over time, acquiring the rate of healing.

Neuronal regeneration in the central nervous system (CNS), the area of the brain regulated to interpreting incoming sensory signals, occurs after the head suffers a trauma of sufficient magnitude to kill or severely injure nerves. Unfortunately these nerves are not prone to regeneration due to neurons’ long life spans and the relative paucity of blood in the area.

In the leeches, however, nerve injury forms a blastomere, a collection of proteins which contains essential components of nerve regeneration not found in humans.

“We hope our research will shed more light on the currently not-well-understood phenomenon of neuronal regeneration and help determine whether aspirin is a useful drug in that process,” Maniar said.