Promoting Nerve Regeneration Through a Well-Known Medication Class

New research on rodent models undertaken by scientists from the US and Canada has discovered that blocking a specific molecular signaling pathway can promote sensory neuron growth and prevent or reverse peripheral neuropathy. Building on previous research into peripheral nerve regeneration, the team investigated the action of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in constraining the outgrowth of neurites, projections from a neuronal cell body that connect it to other neurons. Peripheral neuropathy impacts an estimated 20 million Americans, and is associated with a variety of conditions including diabetes and HIV. It results from damage to the central nervous system, and produces symptoms ranging from numbness and muscle weakness to severe pain and paralysis. The findings appear this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The new findings suggest that selective antagonism of muscarinic receptors using anti-muscarinic drugs already approved for other conditions may offer a promising new avenue for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy. Senior study author Paul Fernyhough, PhD, professor in the departments of pharmacology and therapeutics and physiology at the University of Manitoba in Canada, observed, “This is encouraging because the safety profile of anti-muscarinic drugs is well-characterized, with more than 20 years of clinical application for a variety of indications in Europe. The novel therapeutic application of anti-muscarinic antagonists suggested by our studies could potentially translate relatively rapidly to clinical use.”

Read more about the findings here.

The journal abstract may be read here.

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