New Research Funding for Spinal Cord Regeneration

Zebrafish are capable of regenerating their spinal cord. The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) is now providing 250,000€ to the MPL Research Group led by Daniel Wehner to further study this remarkable ability. Wehner and his team will use the funds to continue their successful research in Erlangen.

The zebrafish is a fish about three to five centimeters in size, belonging to the minnow family (Cyprinidae). It possesses the astounding ability to regenerate the spinal cord after injury and restore lost function. This sets it apart from mammals, including humans, where a spinal cord injury leads to irreversible functional deficits, including paralysis. The failure of regeneration in mammals is largely attributed to the formation of scar tissue that inhibits the growth of new nerve pathways.

At the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, the Neuroregeneration group is researching zebrafish. The team led by Daniel Wehner have already demonstrated that, different to humans, scar tissue in zebrafish actually promotes the growth of new nerve pathways. To better understand why scar tissue has such different traits in zebrafish and mammals, Wehner has now received new third-party funding from the German Research Foundation. Following a six-month evaluation process, the group will receive a total of approximately 250,000 euros for a period of three years. Daniel Wehner expresses his excitement, stating, "This is enormously important for us. Now we can continue and intensify our successful studies on spinal cord regeneration at the MPL."

In detail, they intend to use the funding to explore the differences between scar tissue in zebrafish and mammals. They hope to find an explanation for the fish's regenerative ability within the composition of scar tissue. New insights could serve as a basis for developing therapeutic interventions following spinal cord injuries in humans.


Image (@Wehner lab): Here one can see nerve fibre growth (orange) and promoting scar tissue (blue) in a Zebrafish.



Edda Fischer

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