The ability to regenerate cutaneous sensory axons in response to injury is crucial for restoring tissue function. Despite its importance and many research efforts in the past, the mechanisms for cutaneous axon regeneration following injury have remained elusive. We have previously discovered that the small reactive oxygen species hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a key regulatory molecule for stimulating cutaneous axon growth. Historically, H2O2 has been seen as a cell-damaging molecule, when present at high concentrations in cells. Recent work however, demonstrates that low, non-toxic concentrations of H2O2 are important for regulation of many cellular functions. This is achieved by the oxidation of redox-sensitive cysteine residues in signaling proteins, most notably of kinases, phosphatases, and transcription factors, which alters their structure and function. As the research field of H2O2 signaling is relatively new, insight into its signaling properties during tissue repair is only beginning to emerge. The significance of this proposal is that it will elucidate mechanisms utilized by injury-induced H2O2 that stimulate cutaneous axon regeneration. The insight gained from this research will aid in the development of treatments for damaged axons due to disease or trauma. Our approach is to combine in vivo imaging and parallel deep sequencing of miRNAs and mRNAs to analyze H2O2 responsive genetic networks in somatosensory neurons that are essential for stimulating axon regeneration.
The goal of this project is to understand how hydrogen peroxide promotes the natural repair and regeneration of cutaneous somatosensory axons. The project is relevant to public human health because cutaneous axon damage, such as in peripheral neuropathy or trauma, significantly impacts sensory function and wound healing. This research will further reveal fundamental principles of hydrogen peroxide signaling in wounds and lay the groundwork for future investigations of axon repair in disease models.
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