Institution:Columbia University College Of Physicians and Surgeons
Robert E. Burke, MD, the Alfred and Minnie Bressler Professor of Neurology, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons
The adult brain and spinal cord were thought to be incapable of growing new axons, the fiber-like structures that connect brain cells and form the infrastructure for all neural circuitry. Damage to these structures following spinal cord injury or stroke has therefore been considered to be irreversible. Burke and colleagues demonstrated (Annals of Neurology 2011) that treatment with superactive forms of genes that mediate axon growth during development can induce adult neurons to grow new axons. This discovery may pave the way for new restorative approaches to both acute neurologic disorders, such as spinal cord injury, and chronic degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.