We’ll see whether this story gets any coverage.
Science Daily tells us that a group from Massachussetts General Hospital and Harvard have published a report in Nature Neuroscience that the “Insulin-like Growth Factor 1” (IGF-1) stimulates the regrowth of axons (the long appendages or tails of nerves that connect to other nerves) in patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and other motor neuron or nerve diseases.
The cell bodies of motor neurons are in the brain. The axons can be up to 3 feet long, however, and extend into the spinal cord, where they meet up with other nerves that connect to the muscles in the body. When the neurons are damaged or die, they aren’t generally replaced. Sometimes, the axons will regrow if the nerves aren’t actually killed, however, and it appears that IGF-1 stimulates this regrowth.
This discovery leads to hope of causing the repair of nerves in place, without transplants of stem cells, precursors, or nerve cells.