New axons in mice

A Yale scientist has encouraged axonal sprouting in mice by removing a protein, Nogo, that blocks the regrowth of nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. The research builds on previous findings by Stephen M. Strittmatter, M.D., Ph.D., the Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology.

“In the mice with a mutation that prevents Nogo A/B expression, the central nervous system is largely normal but responds to injury in a unique fashion with robust axonal sprouting and long-distance growth,” said Strittmatter, lead author of a study published in the April issue of the journal Neuron.

The researchers bred mice without the Nogo A and Nogo B proteins. In these mice new axons sprouted after a spinal cord injury, and the mice showed better recovery of locomotor function than control mice.

“Once we can demonstrate that the Nogo protein constitutes an important pathway limiting axon growth, then we can pharmacologically improve functional recovery first in animals and then in humans,” Strittmatter said.