Gene therapy could aid regenerate damaged nerve fibers in the eye – a discovery that could aid the development of new treatments for glaucoma – a leading cause of blindness worldwide. In fact, nerve fibers in the adult central nervous system do not normally renew after injury and disease, which means the damage is mostly irreversible. However, a number of discoveries over the past decade suggest possibility of regeneration of nerve fibers.
A study published in Nature Communications involved testing if gene is responsible for the generation of a protein known as Protrudin. This protein could prompt the regeneration of nerve cells and safeguard them from cell death after an injury.
For the study, the team used a cell culture system for growing brain cells in a dish. Then, the nerve cells were damaged using a layer and response of this injury analyzed using live-cell microscopy. The analysis of injured nerve cells suggested increasing the amount of Protrudin greatly incrased the ability to regenerate.
Study analyzes role of protein in the gene for repair of damaged nerve cells
Meanwhile, nerve cells in the retina extend the nerve fibers from the eye to the brain through the optic nerve. This is in order to transmit and process visual information. Therefore, to examine if Protrudin would stimulate repair in in the damaged central nervous system (CNS) in an intact organism, researchers employed gene therapy to increase the amount and activity of Protrudin in the eye and optic nerve.
Following this, after a few weeks, the amount of regeneration observed after a crush injury to the optic nerve notable. The team observed Protrudin had enabled nerve fibers to revive over large distances. Also, retinal ganglion cells protected from cell death, observed the team.