Eye cancer study dispels the theory of nerve activity

November 26, 2007

Researchers have identified a cell that causes eye cancer, suggesting for the first time that deliberate genetic manipulations may encourage the brain to heal itself.

Researchers have identified a cell that causes eye cancer, suggesting for the first time that deliberate genetic manipulations may encourage the brain to heal itself. The study, published in Cell, has dispelled a long-standing theory about nerve growth and development.

Michael Dyer and colleagues at St Jude Children's Research Hospital, US, found that reducing the activity of the Rb genes in mice retina enables fully differentiated horizontal neurons to multiply while retaining the features of normal horizontal neurons. This demonstrates that retinoblastoma can arise from fully matured horizontal interneurons in the retina and thereby disproves the idea that fully developed nerves cannot multiply like young cells.

Based on these findings, the researchers believe that it may be possible for scientists to induce fully developed neurons to help the brain to heal itself by controlling gene activity in the neurons. This will encourage them to multiply and replace the neurons that were lost as a result of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.