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Scientists Identify Enzyme Preserving Nerve Function

Scientists in the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) have discovered a new role of enzyme in promoting self-destruction of axons and thus, preserve nerve function. Axons are the threadlike portions of a nerve cell that help transmitting signals within the nervous system. The discovery could open new pathways to treating or preventing a wide array of brain diseases as axon loss occurs in all neurodegenerative diseases.
 
Their research was published July 5 in the journal Neuron.

Enzyme promotes the self-destruction of axons
The scientists found that enzyme Axundead - or Axed - promotes the self-destruction of axons. The study results show that after blocking Axed function, injured axons maintained their integrity, remaining capable of transmitting signals within the brain's complex circuitry for weeks. "If you target this pathway, you have a really good chance of preserving the functional aspects of neurons after a variety of types of trauma or injury," said senior author Marc Freeman, Ph.D., director of the Vollum Institute at OHSU. "It's a very attractive therapeutic target."

"We can preserve function in a wide array of patients"
To study the molecular basis of neurodegeneration, severing axons, or axotomy, is a simple way as it leads to the activation of explosive axonal degeneration. Scientists, using this technique may identify pro-degenerative genes with great specificity, especially when using sophisticated genetic approaches in the fruit fly Drosophila in the laboratory. Drosophila shares these same pathways with humans. In the current study, Freeman and colleagues identified Axed, showed that it functions downstream of SARM to execute axonal degeneration, and, surprisingly, that the protection afforded by blocking Axed was even stronger than SARM. "If we can find ways to block it, maybe we can preserve function in a wide array of patients who have lost axons through neurodegenerative diseases or other neural trauma," Freeman said.

Scientists in the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) have discovered a new role of enzyme in promoting self-destruction of axons and thus, preserve nerve function. Axons are the threadlike portions of a nerve cell that help transmitting signals within the nervous system. The discovery could open new pathways to treating or preventing a wide array of brain diseases as axon loss occurs in all neurodegenerative diseases.
 
Their research was published July 5 in the journal Neuron.

Enzyme promotes the self-destruction of axons
The scientists found that enzyme Axundead - or Axed - promotes the self-destruction of axons. The study results show that after blocking Axed function, injured axons maintained their integrity, remaining capable of transmitting signals within the brain's complex circuitry for weeks. "If you target this pathway, you have a really good chance of preserving the functional aspects of neurons after a variety of types of trauma or injury," said senior author Marc Freeman, Ph.D., director of the Vollum Institute at OHSU. "It's a very attractive therapeutic target."

"We can preserve function in a wide array of patients"
To study the molecular basis of neurodegeneration, severing axons, or axotomy, is a simple way as it leads to the activation of explosive axonal degeneration. Scientists, using this technique may identify pro-degenerative genes with great specificity, especially when using sophisticated genetic approaches in the fruit fly Drosophila in the laboratory. Drosophila shares these same pathways with humans. In the current study, Freeman and colleagues identified Axed, showed that it functions downstream of SARM to execute axonal degeneration, and, surprisingly, that the protection afforded by blocking Axed was even stronger than SARM. "If we can find ways to block it, maybe we can preserve function in a wide array of patients who have lost axons through neurodegenerative diseases or other neural trauma," Freeman said.