Showing posts from January, 2012

From miswired brain to psychopathology – modelling neurodevelopmental disorders in mice

It takes a lot of genes to wire the human brain. Billions of cells, of a myriad different types have to be specified, directed to migrate to the right position, organised in clusters or layers, and finally connected to their appropriate targets. When the genes that specify these neurodevelopmental processes are mutated, the result can be severe impairment in function, which can manifest as neurological or psychiatric disease. How those kinds of neurodevelopmental defects actually lead to the emergence of particular pathological states – like psychosis or seizures or social withdrawal – is a mystery, however. Many researchers are trying to tackle this problem using mouse models – animals carrying mutations known to cause autism or schizophrenia in humans, for example. A recent study from my own lab ( open access in PLoS One ) adds to this effort by examining the consequences of mutation of an important neurodevelopmental gene and providing evidence that the mice

Jump-starting regeneration of injured nerves

Unlike in many other animals, injured nerve fibres in the mammalian central nervous system do not regenerate – at least not spontaneously. A lot of research has gone in to finding ways to coax them to do so, unfortunately with only modest success. The main problem is that there are many reasons why central nerve fibres don’t regenerate after an injury – tackling them singly is not sufficient. A new study takes a combined approach to hit two distinct molecular pathways in injured nerves and achieves substantial regrowth in an animal model. Many lower vertebrates, like frogs and salamanders, for example, can regrow damaged nerves quite readily. And even in mammals, nerves in the periphery will regenerate and reconnect, given enough time. But nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord do not regenerate after an injury. Researchers trying to solve this problem focused initially on figuring out what is different about the environment in the central versus the per