The GDNF family, peripheral nerve regeneration and pain
Nerve growth factor (NGF) is an endogenous neurotrophin that is released by tissues and targets peripheral sensory neurons to cause peripheral sensitization and pain. Strategies targeting NGF signalling are now being tested in clinical trials for the treatment of chronic pain. We, and others have found that a majority of sensory neurons also express receptors targeted by another class of neurotrophic factor, the GDNF-family ligands (GFLs). This has led to us to study the functions of GFL signalling in normal and damaged peripheral sensory neurons and developing parasympathetic nerves. In this project you will contribute to research performed with our collaborators at the University of Helsinki, using cultures of adult sensory neurons, growth assays and in vivo regeneration studies. Studies investigating glial targets of the GNDF family are also a priority.
Figure 1: Adult sensory and autonomic neurons growing in culture are sensitive assays for developing new neuroprotective and neurotrophic drugs. Here the neurons are immunolabelled for beta-tubulin to show their neurite structures. They are surrounded by glial cells that are unstained except for their nuclei (green).
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