Cellular and molecular mechanisms of axonal regeneration
Injuries to the nervous system can cause lifelong disabilities due to ineffective repair of the damaged nerve fibres and thus, understanding the basic molecular mechanisms regulating axonal regeneration is essential for the development of effective therapies. Using UV-laser axotomy, we are able to sever individual axons in C. elegans to study their responses to injury. We study a highly efficient mechanism of axonal regeneration known as axonal fusion, whereby a regenerating axon is able to reconnect and fuse with its detached segment to restore the original axonal tract and re-establish connection with its target tissue.
We have demonstrated that molecules previously found to function in the recognition of dying cells by phagocytes, also mediate the reconnection between a regrowing axon and its separated segment. We are now studying the precise mechanisms of this recognition process that allow axonal fusion to occur.