Role of galectin-1 in regeneration and repair following nerve injury

Neurons (nerve cells) send information from skin and muscles along projections (axons) for integration in the brain or spinal cord. Injury to neurons and their axons can result in loss of sensory and motor function. Injury to the axons within the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord, can be especially devastating since they cannot regrow. In the peripheral nervous system (PNS), axons do have some capacity to regrow, but often fail to reconnect with proper targets in muscle and skin, leading to permanent loss of motor function and chronic pain. Andrew Gaudet is investigating the role of a protein called galectin-1 (Gal1) in regeneration after nerve injury. Increasing the levels of Gal1 in the area around the injured axon promotes axonal regrowth, and neurons that contain high levels of Gal1 can regrow better than those that do not have Gal1. Andrew is using mouse models to study the effects of different levels of Gal1 on the ability of axons to regrow in the central and peripheral nervous systems. By providing new insight into the mechanisms underlying regeneration, this research may lead to better functional recovery following peripheral nerve or spinal cord injury.