Identified Protein Possible Treatment Target

A recent study has provided a new possible target for treating a wide range of diseases. Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia have identified a new protein that is critical to insulating the wiring system from the brain to the body. It may prove to be an interesting treatment target that may be possible for a number of diseases, from MS to cancer.

Studies involving mice have shown that a newly identified protein known as erbin may play a very significant role in the production of myelin, proteins that insulate the body’s nerve wirings. The protein erbin regulates the protein called neuregulin 1 that stabilizes and interacts with the ErbB2 receptor found in Schwann cells in order to make myelin.

The said studies have shown that when erbin is missing or mutated, the insulation becomes inadequate and may slow down overall communication.

According to Dr. Lin Mei, study author and director of the MCG’s Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, "Erbin is like a tuner to make signaling stronger or weaker". Without the protein erbin, myelin production seems to fall apart which eventually leads to the possibility of over-exposed nerves dying.

"Receptors for neuregulin 1 just get degraded and lost. Schwann cells can see neuregulin 1 sitting there but they can’t do anything without the receptor," adds DR. Mei who is also the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Neuroscience.

Impaired myelin formation and maintenance have been associated with a variety of neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis. When nerves want to communicate with each other or with other cells,  they develop arms or extensions called axons which then acts like telephone lines that make connections. These axons require proper insulation to provide better signals which is the function of myelin. The researchers found that erbin is enriched in nerve regions where there are a lot of myelinated axons such as the sciatic nerve.

Source: Medical College of Georgia. "Protein Identified As Critical To Insulating The Body’s Wiring Could Also Become Treatment Target." ScienceDaily 26 May 2009. 17 January 2010