Protein ‘Snail’ Identified as Key Player in Brain Injury Healing, Study Finds
A recent study conducted by researchers at George Washington University has shed light on the brain’s response to injuries, revealing the crucial role played by a protein known as Snail. Published in the journal PNAS Nexus, the study demonstrates that Snail is instrumental in coordinating the response of brain cells following an injury.
The researchers discovered that, in the aftermath of a central nervous system (CNS) injury, a specific group of localized cells initiates the production of Snail, a type of transcription factor or protein that has been linked to the repair process. The study further reveals that manipulating the amount of Snail produced can significantly impact the efficiency of the healing process, potentially leading to either more effective recovery or additional damage.
According to senior author Robert Miller, who also serves as the Vivian Gill Distinguished Research Professor and Vice Dean of the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, these findings offer valuable insights into the intricate ways in which the brain responds to injuries. Miller describes Snail as a key player in coordinating these responses and suggests that this discovery paves the way for promising treatment possibilities aimed at minimizing damage and promoting recovery from neurological injuries.
The study’s results raise important questions regarding the potential use of an experimental drug that affects Snail production to limit the extent of damage incurred following a stroke or an accident. Miller notes that further research is necessary to determine whether increasing Snail production could effectively reduce injury or even facilitate brain healing.
In addition to investigating the regulation of Snail in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Miller and his team plan to explore the potential of drugs targeting Snail to mitigate the damage caused by this condition. Multiple sclerosis is characterized by damage to myelin, the protective layer surrounding nerve fibers in the brain. By halting this damage, drugs targeting Snail could alleviate many of the future symptoms associated with the disease.
Nevertheless, before new drugs focused on Snail can proceed to clinical trials, researchers must conduct years of further investigation. The ultimate goal is to develop drugs capable of expediting the healing process for stroke damage, head wounds, and even neurodegenerative disorders like dementia.
Besides Miller and the team of researchers from the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Cheryl Clarkson-Paredes, a senior research scientist at the GW Nanofabrication and Imaging Center, served as the lead author of the paper titled “A unique cell population expressing the Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition-transcription factor Snail moderates microglial and astrocyte injury responses.”
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