Schwann cell-axonal communication during axonal degeneration and regrowth


  • Dr Peter Arthur-Farraj

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

Peripheral nerves consist of two principal cellular components: nerve cells (neurons); and supporting cells (Schwann cells). If a nerve is damaged, Schwann cells transform into a specialised injury-specific cell type, called repair Schwann cells. These cells support the survival of damaged nerve cells and encourage nerve fibres (axons) to regrow, allowing the return of sensation and movement to the affected part of the body. Very little is currently known about the way repair Schwann cells bring about nerve repair, particularly which genes are important for their function. We also do not know the identity or origin of the signals that instruct Schwann cells to become repair cells.

I aim to define the function of several genes that are likely to be important for repair Schwann cell function and nerve regeneration. I will also identify signals released from injured axons that can instruct the transformation of Schwann cells into repair Schwann cells. 

Identification of new signalling molecules that regulate nerve repair will generate targets for drugs that could improve human nerve regeneration and provide novel therapies for patients with diseases that affect nerves.