Gene therapy helps regenerate injured brain cells

Gene therapy not only helps injured brain cells live longer and regenerate but also changes the shape of the cells, says a new study.

Alan Harvey, professor of anatomy and physiology at The University of Western Australia, said brain cell morphology (study of form and structure of organisms) was very important in determining how a cell communicated with other cells and formed the circuits that allowed the brain to function.

"Our previous work has shown that when growth-promoting genes are introduced into injured brain cells for long periods of time (up to nine months), the cells' capacity for survival and regeneration is significantly increased," he was quoted as saying by the journal Public Library of Science One.

"We have now shown that these same neurons have also changed shape in response to persistent over-expression of the growth factors," said Harvey, who co-authored the study with Jennifer Rodge, according to a statement of Western Australia.

"Any changes in morphology are therefore likely to alter the way neurons receive and transmit information. These changes may be beneficial but could also interfere with normal brain circuits, reducing the benefits of improved survival and regeneration."

Harvey said the results were significant for those involved in designing gene therapy based protocols to treat brain and spinal cord injury and degeneration.

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