Scientists at the School of Medicine have implicated a specific molecule in the self-destruction of axons, the wiring of the nervous system. Understanding just how that damage occurs may help researchers find a way to halt it.
New research highlights how nerves – whether harmed by disease or traumatic injury – start to die, a discovery that unveils novel targets for developing drugs to slow or halt devastating neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyolateral sclerosis as well as peripheral nerve damage.
Working in mice, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have devised a treatment that prevents the optic nerve injury that occurs in glaucoma, a neurodegenerative disease that is a leading cause of blindness. Researchers increased the resistance of optic nerve cells to damage by repeatedly exposing the mice to low levels of oxygen similar to those found at high altitudes.
Batten disease is a rare but fatal neurological disorder that typically strikes young children. Working in mice with the infantile form of the disease, scientists have discovered dramatic improvements in life span and motor function by treating the animals with gene therapy and bone marrow transplantation.
Alan Pestronk’s experience with neurodegenerative disease helps him tune in to the patient and the caregivers.