A Wichita State University (KS, USA) scientist is researching the use of electrical signals to improve the migration of repair cells towards the site of spinal cord injury, for improved nerve regeneration.
Injuries to the spinal cord not only damage the nerve cells but can also cause the death of the surrounding tissues. When this occurs, support cells known as Schwann cells can help remyelinate axons at the injury site, which can promote some return of function to these nerve cells.
Li Yao, a biological sciences assistant professor at Wichita State University (KS, USA), is investigating the use of electrical signals to swiftly direct Schwann cells to the injury site, by looking at using next-generation RNA sequencing to look at the signaling pathways that regulate cell migration in electric fields. He hopes that his research will create new opportunities for treatment of nerve damage: “Electrical signal is a kind of ignored approach that may generate significant biological function in neural regeneration.”
Yao has determined that increasing the strength of the electrical field increases the precision cell migration toward the injury site, but does not affect speed. These early findings therefore suggest that use of electrical fields in cell migration may be worthy of increased study in regenerative medicine. “Our work has implications for central nervous system repair, and the application of an electrical field may assist with that,” comments Yao.