Monday, August 21, 2006

Possible Brain Repair Protein Pinpointed

New Tasmanian research has found a protein could hold the key to repairing damaged brain and spinal cord cells.

The University of Tasmania research could provide some hope for the 27,000 Australians who suffer traumatic brain injuries each year.

Neuroscientist Tracey Dickson says the team has identified a particular protein, ERM, which is vital to both the growth and repair of damaged central nervous system cells.

"We know that they are on in development and they are switched back on after trauma and perhaps that's a clue for a particular therapeutic intervention that we could follow up," she said.

Researcher Matilda Haas says while the body switches on the protein after trauma, the damage is never fully repaired.

"After they grow back a little bit, they'll be stunted and the neuron will probably degenerate," she said.

The PhD student says it is an exciting discovery because it could help repair permanent injury.

"It was quite surprising in the beginning of my project to see that these proteins that I started studying, that nobody really knows what they do in development - I was able to identify that they were important in development," she said.

"And then when I caused nervous system injury in one of our in-vitro models, to see that they were re-expressed, especially in response to injury, was quite exciting."

Further research could help determine a way to get the protein to fully repair injured cells.