First Lab Motor Nerve System Developed

Researchers hailing from the University of Central Florida have reported on developing the first lab-grown motor nerves that are organized and insulated just like the ones found in the human body. The said motor nerve system can be used to further study and understand their functions as well as how some of the myelin related conditions happen. It may also help researchers someday discover, develop and test new treatments for conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Conditions related to myelin deterioration and damage such as multiple sclerosis can be debilitating as well as deadly. Myelin serves as an insulating material around nerve cells that helps offer better nerve signal transmission from the brain to other parts of the body and vice versa. According to James Hickman, a UCF bioengineer and project lead researcher, "The nodes of Ranvier act like power station relays along the myelin sheath. They chemically boost signals, allowing them to get across breaks in myelin, or from node to node, at the electrically charged nodes of Ranvier. Nerve malfunctions, called neuropathies, involve a breakdown in the way the brain sends and receives electric signals along nerve cells, leading to malfunctions at the nodes of Ranvier, along with demyelination".

Researchers have cited the need for a lab-grown system of motor nerve cells that myelinate and form nodes of Ranvier for use in lab controlled conditions for studying the causes of demyelination. Hickman and his colleagues were the first team to achieve developing a successful model nodes of Ranvier formation on motor nerves in a defined serum-free culture system in the laboratory.

The UCF team plans to use the new model system to explore the origins of diabetic neuropathy and identify the causes of myelin degradation associated with the condition. This will help researchers also to target new drug therapies to be tested on the motor nerve system model. "Being able to study these fully developed structures means we can really start looking at these things in a way that just wasn’t possible before," added Hickman.

Source: Elsevier. "First Model Motor Nerve System That’s Insulated And Organized Like Human Body." ScienceDaily 22 July 2009. 28 July 2009 .

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