Washington: Biologists have identified 76 genes that play a vital role in regenerating nerves after injury. This opens the way to develop therapies to repair spinal cord injuries and other common kinds of nerve damage such that caused by a stroke.

It is based on a two-year investigation of 654 genes suspected to be involved in regulating the growth of axons, the thread-like extensions of nerve cells (present in brain and spinal cord) that transmit messages to other nerve cells.

Researchers identified 70 genes that promote axon growth after injury and six more genes that repress the re-growth of axons, the journal Neuron reports.

"We don't know much about how axons re-grow after they're damaged," said University of California, San Diego, biology professor Andrew Chisholm who led the study, according to a varsity statement.

"When you have an injury to your spinal cord or you have a stroke you cause a lot of damage to your axons. And in your brain or spinal cord, regeneration is very inefficient. That's why spinal cord injuries are basically untreatable," he said.

Chisholm and another University of California biology professor and investigator Yishi Jin headed the team, which also included members from the University of Oregon.

Chisholm said, "In essence what we found are genes that people had not suspected previously to be part of this process."

To find the 76 genes, the researchers conducted painstaking experiments on over 10,000 tiny lab roundworms known as C. elegans.

(Agencies)