X-Message-Number: 13148
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 18:26:21 -0500
From: Jan Coetzee <>
Subject: Nerve Repair

Scientists Identify Protein Linked to Nerve Repair

 By Patricia Reaney

 LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have identified a protein that prevents
damaged cells in the
 brain and spinal cord from regenerating in a discovery that could offer
new hope for people
 paralyzed by stroke or spinal cord injuries.

 Unlike tissue in many parts of the body that can repair itself, nerve
cells survive injury but the
 axons or wires that connect them and transmit nerve impulses are
severed and do not grow

 But in three reports in the science journal Nature, scientists in
Britain, the United States and
 Switzerland said an inhibitory protein called Nogo is one of the
reasons why.

 ``It is very likely that Nogo is one reason why but it might be one of
several reasons why,''
 Stephen Strittmatter, a neurologist at Yale School of Medicine, said in
a telephone interview.

 Although new experimental therapies for stroke victims and people with
spinal cord injuries
 are still years away, the researchers believe the discovery of the Nogo
protein marks a huge
 advance in the study of neurological disorders.

 ``It opens up the possibility of allowing axon regeneration to happen
in the brain and spinal
 cord. That is the promise of it. There are many things to be done
before that promise is
 realised,'' he added.

 Strittmatter and his Yale colleagues and scientists at Harvard
Institutes of Medicine in Boston
 showed that the Nogo protein generated in the laboratory stops axon

 Martin Schwab and scientists at the University of Zurich and the Swiss
Federal Institute of
 Technology and Dr Frank Walsh, who led the team at British drugs giant
Smithkline Beecham,
 reported similar findings about Nogo.

 ``Now that we have the structure of the Nogo protein we can move on and
hopefully identify
 more specific and more effective ways of neutralizing or inhibiting the
effects of Nogo,'' Walsh
 told Reuters.

 The researchers are not sure how the protein works nor how to block its
function. That's the
 next step.

 The SmithKline Beecham team have produced Nogo protein in the
laboratory to assess its
 importance. They will also screen Nogo against libraries of genes to
try to find receptors to
 which the protein binds.

 In a commentary on the research papers in Nature, J.L. Goldberg and
B.A. Barnes of Stanford
 University School of Medicine in California described the Nogo findings
as ``a landmark step
 on a long road toward treatments for patients suffering from
neurological conditions, including
 spinal-cord injury and stroke.''

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