FRIDAY, Nov. 11, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A certain kind of naturally occurring lipid, or fat, may play a major role in nervous system development, researchers report.
In research with mice, a team at the Medical College of Georgia found that blocking a signaling lipid can prevent nerves from developing the arm-like extensions (axons) they require to wire the body with nerves. Blocking the signaling lipid may even cause neurons to die.
The finding, reported in the November issue of Cell Biology, could help scientists develop methods of repairing nerves damaged by disease or injury, the researchers say.
The lipids involved in nervous system development aren't the blood fats doctors measure during an annual cholesterol checkup, the Georgia team noted. These particular lipids help give shape and function to components inside cells, such as the nucleus or the cell's "energy factories," the mitochondria.
"Traditionally, people didn't think these lipids were regulated. They thought they were just there. But what we found is this particular lipid is regulated; it's like a signaling molecule. Especially during axon growth, the dynamic regulation is more dramatic," study corresponding author and developmental neurobiologist Dr. Wen-Cheng Xiong said in a prepared statement.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about nerve injuries.