This microscopic image shows molecular signs of insulation forming on the sciatic nerve of a 14-day old mouse.

An estimated 20 million people in the United States have some form of peripheral nerve damage interfering with their lives.

Now, a study published April 26, 2017, in Nature Communications, suggests a way to fine-tune molecular signals so that peripheral nerves stay properly insulated and functioning normally. 

A research team at Cincinnati Children’s focused on Schwann cells, which protect nerves and ensure transmission of neural signals to limbs and other parts of the body. They discovered that genetic dysfunction in the HIPPO-TAZ/YAP and Gαs-protein feedback circuit disrupts balanced production of Schwann cells, resulting in insufficient nerve insulation. 

“These findings will lead to future studies aimed at fine tuning the balance between YAP/TAZ and Gαs, and this may lead to new therapeutic strategies,” says Q. Richard Lu, PhD, co-lead investigator and Scientific Director of the Brain Tumor Center.