New neurons for an old fish

I’ve written pre­vi­ously about biology pro­fessor Gün­ther Zupanc’s work with teleost fish both here and on the News@northeastern site. The word teleost can be used to describe 20,000 dif­ferent kinds of fish, but all of them have retained, in adult stages of life, the ability to regrow periph­eral organs like hearts, fins and even por­tions of the cen­tral ner­vous system. In that regard, they are quite supe­rior to we non-​​regenerative humans.

An upcoming article from Zupanc’s lab in the journal Neru­o­science  will dis­cuss one par­tic­ular type of teleost fish — Apteronotus lep­torhyncus — com­monly called the brown ghost knife­fish.* After an injury, the neural tissue of brown ghost knife­fish is com­pletely restored within a few weeks fol­lowing a “cas­cade of events.” First, the dam­aged cells and cel­lular debris need to be flushed out of the body, then new cells need to be formed. The new cells will then dif­fer­en­tiate into neu­rons and inte­grate into the existing neu­ronal cir­cuits, according to the article. Finally, other mech­a­nism kick in which pro­mote cel­lular survival.

Clearly, quite a few things are going down in the foot-​​long body of a brown ghost knife­fish after it gets wounded. And each of these processes requires a slew of pro­teins to be suc­cessful. Zupanc’s team has pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied sev­eral of them that are in notably high or low con­cen­tra­tions three days after the injury. But this new paper looks at the scene just thirty min­utes after injury, and shows that the course toward regen­er­a­tion is set very early.

They iden­ti­fied 11 pro­teins that seem to be par­tic­u­larly impor­tant to the early stages of regen­er­a­tion. The article looks at each of these and hypoth­e­sizes why they, over other com­pounds, might be sig­nif­i­cant. The 11 pro­teins are involved in processes as far reaching as blood clot­ting and elec­tron transfer. They sup­port energy metab­o­lism and play roles in regen­er­a­tion as well as degeneration.

These results are very impor­tant for devel­oping new ther­a­peutic strate­gies to finally cure brain trauma,” said Zupanc.


*if I ever trans­form into a ninja fish, I hope I’ll be referred to as a ghost knife­fish, don’t you?