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Eureka!: Small Wonders

Healing Damaged Nerves

photo of metabolic pathway

Photo: Keit Men Wong

By Sally Jarzab

Though it afflicts millions, neuropathy has never been well understood. Now, researchers at UB’s Hunter James Kelly Research Institute have discovered a key metabolic pathway that induces neuropathy, or nerve damage, when hyperactivated in laboratory mice. They also found that an existing immunosuppressant drug called rapamycin causes affected cells, known as Schwann cells, to heal and rejuvenate, allowing for the formation of protective myelin sheaths (depicted here in red) and dramatically curing the mice. The revelation provides promising evidence of nerve regeneration, a process critical for potentially reversing damage associated with a range of diseases, such as diabetes, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.