Scientists at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, have identified a gene that produces a protein essential for nerves to stretch without shattering (Hammarlund M et al. J Cell Biol. doi:10.1083/jcb.200611117 [published online January 29, 2007]).
Although the study was done in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, it could have implications for spinocerebellar ataxia type 5, a disease tied to a human version of the gene. This neurodegenerative disease destroys nerve cells in brain regions that control movements and causes loss of coordination in walking, speaking, writing, and swallowing.
Hampton T. Shattered Nerves. JAMA. 2007;297(9):941. doi:10.1001/jama.297.9.941-d