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Protein Helps Damaged Nerves Grow Back

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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

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May 29, 2002 -- A particular protein may help damaged nerves grow back after injury by blocking other proteins that hamper the recovery process. A new study shows that the protein fragment or peptide, known as NEP1-40, promoted nerve regrowth in rats with damaged spine and brain cells.

Researchers say the finding may eventually lead to new treatments for stroke, spinal injuries, multiple sclerosis, and brain injuries. Their study is published in the May 30 issue of Nature.

According to the study, a protein called Nogo-66, present on cells in the brain and spinal cord, prevents nerve-cell regrowth after traumatic injury.

But researchers have now identified another protein fragment (NEP1-40) that works as an antagonist to counter Nogo-66. The researchers were able to kickstart the recovery process in laboratory rats whose spinal cords were damaged.

Study author Stephen M. Strittmatter, MD, PhD, and colleagues at Yale University found that rats given injections of NEP1-40 at the site of the injury experienced significant cell regrowth and improved functional recovery.

If future studies confirm these findings, scientists may be able to develop treatments using this protein for use in humans with spinal cord injury.

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