Scientists have found a novel method to improve nerve regeneration in the peripheral nervous system.
The find could lead to new treatments for nerve damage caused by diabetes or traumatic injuries.
Peripheral nerve damage can lead to pain, tingling, numbness or difficulty coordinating hands, feet, arms or legs.
Dr. Douglas Zochodne, a neurologist and professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Kimberly Christie, lead author on the study and a PhD student in Dr. Zochodne's lab, along with Hotchkiss Brain Institute colleagues examined a pathway that helps nerves to grow and survive.
The scientists found a molecular brake within the nervous system, called PTEN, helps to prevent excessive cell growth under normal conditions.
PTEN prevents peripheral nerves from regenerating, and after blocking it, the researchers witnessed increased nerve outgrowth.
"No one knew that nerves in the peripheral system could regenerate in this way, nerves that can be damaged if someone has diabetes for example. This finding could eventually help people who have lost feeling or motor skills recover and live with less pain," said Christie.
This discovery is published in the July 7, 2010 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.