Nerve signal discovery backs Nobel winner's theory

October 11, 2012, University of Edinburgh

Scientists have proved a 60-year-old theory about how nerve signals are sent around the body at varying speeds as electrical impulses.

Researchers tested how these signals are transmitted through , which enables us to move and recognise sensations such as touch and smell.

The findings from the University of Edinburgh have validated an idea first proposed by Sir Andrew Huxley.

It has been known for many years that an insulating layer – known as myelin – which surrounds nerve fibres is crucial in determining how quickly these signals are sent.

This insulating myelin is interrupted at regular intervals along the nerve by gaps called nodes.

Scientists, whose work was funded by the Wellcome Trust, have now proved that the longer the distance between nodes, the quicker the nerve fibres send signals down the nerves.

The theory that the distance between these gaps might affect the speed of electrical signals was first proposed by Sir Andrew Huxley, who won the Nobel Prize in 1963 for his work on electrical signalling in the nervous system, and who died earlier this year.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, will help provide insight into what happens in people with . It will also shed light on how nerves develop before and after birth.

Professor Peter Brophy, Director of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Neuroregeneration, said: "The study gives us greater insight into how the central and peripheral nervous systems work and what happens after nerves become injured. We know that have the capacity to repair, but shorter lengths of insulation around the nerve fibres after repair affect the speed with which impulses are sent around the body."

The researchers found that when the myelin reached a certain length, the speed with which nerves impulses were conducted reached a peak.

The study, carried out in mice, also confirmed that a protein – periaxin – plays a key role in regulating the length of myelin layers around nerve fibres.

Explore further: Hopes for reversing age-associated effects in MS patients

Related Stories

Hopes for reversing age-associated effects in MS patients

January 6, 2012
New research highlights the possibility of reversing ageing in the central nervous system for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. The study is published today, 06 January, in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Recommended for you

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jonnyboy
1 / 5 (3) Oct 11, 2012
really?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.