Hormone signal drives motor neuron growth, fish study shows

May 23, 2013, University of Edinburgh

A discovery made in fish could aid research into motor neuron disease.

Scientists have found that a key hormone allows young zebrafish to develop and replace their motor neurons – a kind of nerve cell found in the spinal cord.

The discovery may aid efforts to create neurons from stem cells in the lab, and support further research into a disorder for which there is still no cure.

In humans, motor neurons control important such as speaking, walking and breathing. When these cells stop working, it causes difficulties in and leads to paralysis and death.

While humans cannot replace motor neurons when they break down, zebrafish can, making them a good model for research.

The study, led by scientists at the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Neuroregeneration, is the first to show that a signal released from the fish's brain – a hormone called dopamine – triggers the development and regeneration of cells in the spinal cord.

Dopamine acts on a mechanism – known as the hedgehog pathway – to increase the number of motor neurons formed in the developing spinal cord of zebrafish.

The dopamine signal was found to act in a similar way to replace damaged cells in adult zebrafish.

Dopamine was also found to drive the development of motor neurons in human , potentially paving the way for new and improved studies into motor neuron disease.

The work, published in the journal Developmental Cell, involved researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Helsinki and the Okazaki Institute for Integrative Biosciences, Japan.

It was mainly funded by the BBSRC, The Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research at the University of Edinburgh and MND Scotland.

Dr Catherina Becker, Reader in Neurobiology at the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Neuroregeneration, and one of the lead authors of the study, said: "Our work sheds light on the way in which develop and re-generate, and could inform research that leads to an increased understanding of and spinal cord injuries."

Explore further: Cell study may aid bid for motor neurone therapies

Related Stories

Cell study may aid bid for motor neurone therapies

February 28, 2012
The quest for treatments for motor neurone disease, spinal cord injury and strokes could be helped by new research that shows how key cells are produced.

Neon exposes hidden ALS cells

April 30, 2013
A small group of elusive neurons in the brain's cortex play a big role in ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a swift and fatal neurodegenerative disease that paralyzes its victims. But the neurons have always been difficult ...

Stem cell discovery gives insight into motor neurone disease

February 11, 2013
A discovery using stem cells from a patient with motor neurone disease could help research into treatments for the condition. The study used a patient's skin cells to create motor neurons - nerve cells that control muscle ...

Stem cell-derived dopaminergic neurons rescue motor defects in Parkinsonian monkeys

December 3, 2012
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that is characterized by tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty walking. It is caused by loss of the neurons that produce the neurotransmitter ...

Recommended for you

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 ...

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.

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.

Researchers devise decoy molecule to block pain where it starts

January 16, 2018
For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he's developing new ways to blunt pain.

Scientists unleash power of genetic data to identify disease risk

January 16, 2018
Massive banks of genetic information are being harnessed to shed new light on modifiable health risks that underlie common diseases.

0 comments

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.