Re-growing axons after lesions of the central nervous system

June 9, 2011

A key molecule of the vascular system called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) directs axons during the formation of neural circuits, researchers at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) have found.

The researchers used a microscopic device to control and observe, in real time, the axon’s behavior in response to guidance molecules. This technique allowed the researchers to follow the axon’s trajectory and revealed the VEGF’s role in directing axons.

They identified Flk-1 as the receptor responsible for this effect, making it a prime target for the development of therapies to re-grow axons after lesions of the central nervous system or neurodegenerative diseases.

This could have an important long-term impact in the field of spinal cord repair as well as the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, the researchers said.

Ref.: Carmen Ruiz de Almodovar, et al., VEGF Mediates Commissural Axon Chemoattraction through Its Receptor Flk1, Neuron, (2011), [DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.04.014]