A team of researchers at the IRCM led by Frédéric Charron, PhD (Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine (Division of Experimental Medicine), the Department of Biology, and the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at McGill University), in collaboration with bioengineers at McGill University, uncovered a new kind of synergy in the development of the nervous system, which explains an important mechanism required for neural circuits to form properly. Their breakthrough, published today in the scientific journal PLoS Biology, could eventually help develop tools to repair nerve cells following injuries to the nervous system (such as the brain and spinal cord).
Researchers in Dr. Charron’s laboratory study neurons, the nerve cells that make up the central nervous system, as well as their long extensions known as axons. During development, axons must follow specific paths in the nervous system in order to properly form neural circuits and allow neurons to communicate with one another. IRCM researchers are studying a process called axon guidance to better understand how axons manage to follow the correct paths.
“To reach their target, growing axons rely on molecules known as guidance cues, which instruct them on which direction to take by repelling or attracting them to their destination,” explains Dr. Charron, Director of the Molecular Biology of Neural Development research unit at the IRCM.
April 1, 2015