About Molecular Regeneration & Neuroimaging Lab
Current Research Group
- Soonmoon Yoo, PhD, Principal investigator
- Hak Hee Kim, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow
- Paul Kim, BS, Research Assistant II
- Kyungmin Choi, BA, Research Volunteer
Axons damage to the central nervous system (CNS) including brain and spinal cord do not spontaneously regenerate and there are currently no effective treatments, resulting in irreversible and permanent neurophysiological dysfunction. Each year, it is estimated that more than 2 million people in the U.S. alone sustain traumatic brain injuries and approximately 12,000 new cases are annually added to an estimated 400,000 patients with spinal cord injuries. By contrast, axonal injury to the peripheral nervous system (PNS) normally shows a robust regenerative response. These spontaneous regenerative responses of peripheral nerves can be experimentally further enhanced by a pre-conditioning injury to the nerve, for which the peripheral nerve has been given an injury prior to being subjected to another injury. De novo protein synthesis is a key component of this enhanced regeneration.
Although most proteins are synthesized in the cell body, our previous study has shown that many mRNAs are differentially localized into axons of neurons to accomplish local and autonomous de novo protein synthesis. Translation of mRNAs directly in the axonal compartment is now known to contribute to axonal growth and regeneration. Studies on axonal mRNAs will provide invaluable insight into the molecular changes that occur in the regenerating nerve. The long-term goal of our laboratory is to uncover the molecular mechanisms that regulate de novo protein synthesis needed to regenerate axons. Determination of mechanisms that lead to regeneration of peripheral nerves will enable development of new strategies to promote axonal regrowth within the CNS.