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Coleman Laboratory


Nerve Repair

Peripheral nerves consist of two principal cellular components, nerve cells (neurons) and supporting cells (Schwann cells). Remarkably, during periods of nerve damage, Schwann cells transform into a specialized injury-specific cell type, called repair Schwann cells. These cells support the survival of damaged nerve cells and encourage nerve fibers (axons) to regrow, allowing the return of sensation and movement to the affected part of the body. While this regenerative process is quite efficient in fish and small mammals, in larger animals, such as humans it is quite poor. 

In the laboratory we are trying to understand what genes are important for the function of the repair Schwann cells and secondly to identify signals that communicate between axons (nerve cell projections) and Schwann cells during nerve injury and repair. This information will then help us understand why human nerve regeneration fails after traumatic injury or during diseases of peripheral nerves, termed peripheral neuropathies and hopefully develop strategies in the future to improve nerve repair.