Growth factor stimulates rapid extension of key motor neurons in brain

November 3, 2006 (EurekAlert!, Massachusetts General Hospital)- MGH study first to identify factors controlling growth of brain cells damaged in ALS:<BR>A growth factor known to be important for the survival of many types of cells stimulates rapid extension of corticospinal motor neurons – critical brain cells that connect the cerebral cortex with the spinal cord and that die in motor neuron diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). In the November 2006 issue of Nature Neuroscience, two investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute describe how insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) dramatically increases the in vitro growth of corticospinal motor neuron (CSMN) axons – projections that carry nerve impulses to the spinal motor neurons that connect to muscles – and that blocking IGF-1 activity reduces that growth in both cultured cells and in living mice.