A step towards understanding spinal cord repair

A researcher holding a tank of zebrafish up towards the camera

Dec 2018: Our researchers have identified that immune system cells are important in spinal cord repair in zebrafish.

Euan MacDonald Centre Investigator Prof Catherina Becker and her team have recently published their latest research on the mechanisms of spinal cord repair in zebrafish. These tiny fish are remarkable because they can fully repair their spinal cord after injury, in just a matter of weeks.

The team hopes that understanding the molecules involved in this process in zebrafish might give clues as to how spinal cord repair could be promoted in humans. The work also has great relevance to neurodegenerative conditions such as MND, for which regeneration of lost motor neurons might be a future treatment opportunity.

In this latest research, the scientists found that the immune system plays a key role in helping zebrafish nerve cells to regenerate after injury. Large immune cells called macrophages are vital for the fish to repair damaged connections. These cells usually help the body to fight off infections but they also play a key role in wound healing.

The researchers found that macrophages produce key molecules that dampen inflammation at the spinal injury site. This enables nerve cells to bridge the gap and repair lost connections.

The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Zebrafish are interesting to us because they can regain full swimming ability after spinal cord injury.  Our research is focused on understanding the factors involved in this process so that we can look for potential ways of developing treatments for people.”

Prof Catherina BeckerUniversity of Edinburgh

Related links

Read the scientific publication in Nature Communications: Dynamic control of proinflammatory cytokines Il-1β and Tnf-α by macrophages in zebrafish spinal cord regeneration. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-07036-w

Research case study: neuron regeneration in zebrafish

Professor Catherina Becker's profile


This article was published on: Tuesday, December 04, 2018