- Scientists from
Plymouth University have identified that Merlin could repair damage to nerve tissues
- Peripheral nerve
damage is a debilitating condition with limited treatment options
- The discovery of
Merlin's role in repair could provide a potential treatment option.
A key protein called Merlin described in a new study published in
the Journal of Cell Biology
, was found to allow nerves of the
peripheral nervous system (PNS) to undergo repair after an injury.
A research team from Plymouth University of Peninsula Schools of
Medicine and Dentistry found that the protein could be potential repair therapy
- People who
suffered peripheral nerve damage due to various forms of trauma, including
injuries incurred during the war.
- People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who suffer from peripheral
nerve damage. People with diabetes often burn or hurt their feet due to a
lack of sensation as they experience ongoing damage. There is no known treatment
for such damage.
The main aspect of the study is the discovery of a protein called
Merlin (moesin-ezrin-radixin-like protein). This protein was found to
- Play a role in
suppressing tumors of the nervous system.
- Be associated
with the development of brain tumors and other nervous system tumors when
present in low levels.
- Play an important
role in the mechanism of repair of nerves. This was the first study to
highlight this function of the protein.
A nerve cell communicates with distant targets in the body for
passing information by sending electrical signals along a thin, long part of
the cell which is called the axon. As an adaptation to increase the speed of
transmission of these electrical signals, the axon is wrapped or insulated by a
sheath of myelin, which is produced by another group of cells which are the
‘Repair of peripheral nerve damage now has a potential new line of treatment with ‘merlin protein’’
The myelin sheath is characterized by jelly roll like cake that
blocks the loss of electrical signals, protecting information passage.
In the absence of an intact axon and the sheath of myelin, the
peripheral nerve cells cannot activate the muscles or pass on information to
the target cells from the brain or from the limbs to the brain.
Effect on Schwann
Cells of the Peripheral Nervous System
The research team consisting of neuroscientists found that Merlin
present in the Schwann cells of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) played an
important role in the repair of nerves, by studying mouse models. The main role
of these Schwann cells is to wrap the nerve cell projections and to insulate
them as they transfer information from in and out of the spinal cord and the
brain. These cells also produce unique regenerative properties after an injury,
and a crucial role was identified in the study for the Merlin protein
associated with this repair on damage to the peripheral nervous system.
A protein called YAP in Schwann cells, that lack the protein Merlin,
are associated with the failure to repair nerves. The discovery of the new
protein, Merlin, in the repair of the PNS could provide new therapies in the
event of age-associated decline in PNS function as well as in trauma associated
The lead author of the study, Dr. David Parkinson, a professor of
Neuroscience from The Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and
Dentistry said that damage to the peripheral nerve had very few options for
treatment and that people who sustained it, had a poor prognosis. This new and
exciting finding identified, for the first time, methods by which the repair of
the nerve damage could take place. An understanding of these methods would aid
developing effective therapies in situations where there are currently no
options for therapy.
Protein Merlin in Tumor Cells
The condition neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is associated with
tumors of the nervous system and is due to the loss of function of the NF2
gene. This gene codes for the protein
Merlin, which belongs to the ERM (Ezrin, Radixin and Moesin) protein family.
The functions of Merlin as tumor suppressor is characterized by
influence on -
There are many previous studies that have identified the tumor
intrinsic mutations in Merlin. Tumor cells derive their energy from the
surrounding stroma, and the association between the tumor cells and the stroma
result in promotion of the malignant phenotype.
The discovery of Merlin
and its role in the repair of damage to the peripheral nervous system could
provide a unique option for treatment.
to the peripheral nerves can have a debilitating effect on the individual and
lower the quality of life lead. Such treatment options could open treatment
pathways which could improve the quality of life of these patients.
- Merlin: The wizard requires protein stability to function as a tumor suppressor - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3459139/)
- Schwann Cells - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0025728/)