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J Neural Eng. 2009 Oct;6(5):055001. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/6/5/055001. Epub 2009 Sep 1.

Electrical activity enhances neuronal survival and regeneration.

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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, FL 33136, USA.


The failure of regeneration in the central nervous system (CNS) remains an enormous scientific and clinical challenge. After injury or in degenerative diseases, neurons in the adult mammalian CNS fail to regrow their axons and reconnect with their normal targets, and furthermore the neurons frequently die and are not normally replaced. While significant progress has been made in understanding the molecular basis for this lack of regenerative ability, a second approach has gained momentum: replacing lost neurons or lost connections with artificial electrical circuits that interface with the nervous system. In the visual system, gene therapy-based 'optogenetics' prostheses represent a competing technology. Now, the two approaches are converging, as recent data suggest that electrical activity itself, via the molecular signaling pathways such activity stimulates, is sufficient to induce neuronal survival and regeneration, particularly in retinal ganglion cells. Here, we review these data, discuss the effects of electrical activity on neurons' molecular signaling pathways and propose specific mechanisms by which exogenous electrical activity may be acting to enhance survival and regeneration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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