Register for updates

 
 

Medicine & Health
RSS Feed
How Rabies "Hijacks" Neurons to Attack the Brain
Monday, October 06, 2014 11:35:00 AM

Groundbreaking TAU study tracks precise path of deadly virus to the central nervous system

Rabies causes acute inflammation of the brain, producing psychosis and violent aggression. The virus, which paralyzes the body's internal organs, is always deadly for those unable to obtain vaccines in time. Some 55,000 people die from rabies every year.

For the first time, Tel Aviv University scientists have discovered the exact mechanism this killer virus uses to efficiently enter the central nervous system, where it erupts in a toxic explosion of symptoms. The study, published in PLOS Pathogens, was conducted by Dr. Eran Perlson and Shani Gluska of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience, in collaboration with the Friedrich Loeffler Institute in Germany.

"Rabies not only hijacks the nervous system’s machinery, it also manipulates that machinery to move faster," said Dr. Perlson. "We have shown that rabies enters a neuron in the peripheral nervous system by binding to a nerve growth factor receptor, responsible for the health of neurons, called p75. The difference is that its transport is very fast, even faster than that of its endogenous ligand, the small molecules that travel regularly along the neuron and keep the neuron healthy."

Faster than a speeding train

To track the rabies virus in the nervous system, the researchers grew mouse sensory neurons in an observation chamber and used live cell imaging to track the path taken by the virus particles. The researchers "saw" the virus hijack the "train" transporting cell components along a neuron and drove it straight into the spinal cord. Once in the spinal cord, the virus caught the first available train to the brain, where it wrought havoc before speeding through the rest of the body, shutting it down organ by organ.

Nerve cells, or neurons, outside the central nervous system are highly asymmetric. A long protrusion called an axon extends from the cell body to another nerve cell or organ along a specific transmission route. In addition to rapid transmission of electric impulses, axons also transport molecular materials over these distances.

"Axonal transport is a delicate and crucial process for neuronal survival, and when disrupted it can lead to neurodegenerative diseases," said Dr. Perlson. "Understanding how an organism such as rabies manipulates this machinery may help us in the future to either restore the process or even to manipulate it to our own therapeutic needs."

Hijacking the hijacker

"A tempting premise is to use this same machinery to introduce drugs or genes into the nervous system," Dr. Perlson added. By shedding light on how the virus hijacks the transport system in nerve cells to reach its target organ with maximal speed and efficiency, the researchers hope their findings will allow scientists to control the neuronal transport machinery to treat rabies and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Disruptions of the neuron train system also contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). According to Dr. Perlson, "An improved understanding of how the neuron train works could lead to new treatments for these disorders as well."




Latest News

Global Internet of Things (IoT) Consortium Establishes Investment Vehicle at TAU

Ramot, TAU's Business Engagement Center Company, to launch i3 Equity Partners on campus.

Amarel Green Joins AFTAU as Director of Development, Silicon Valley

Corporate attorney brings more than a decade of experience with technology industry to new position.

Economics in a President Trump World

National teleconference with Prof. Leonardo Leiderman and Michael Shaoul.

"Nice" Women Earn Less than Their More Assertive Counterparts

New TAU study confirms that nice women finish last.

AFTAU Launches #TAUgives on November 29

"Giving Tuesday" initiative enables PhD students from Ram Fishman Lab to provide hands-on sustainability training to farmers in India, Ethiopia and Nepal.

President-Elect Trump and the Future of the Middle East

Dayan Center director Prof. Uzi Rabi discusses what the US election means for the region in a national teleconference.

Discovery of Neurotransmission Gene May Pave Way for Early Detection of Alzheimer's Disease

Identification could lead to new diagnostic blood test and therapeutics, say TAU researchers.

AFTAU to Celebrate Opening of The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at Annual Gala Dinner

Philanthropist, financier and investor Michael Steinhardt to be honored; Charles Bronfman and Lynn Schusterman to serve as co-chairs.

Combined Virtual Reality–Treadmill Training May Prevent Falls Associated with Parkinson's and Other Disorders

Intervention can be used in gyms, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes, TAU researchers say.

Harnessing Algae for the Creation of Clean Energy

TAU researchers discover algae can yield mass quantities of hydrogen, the world's cleanest energy source.

Enzyme Treatment of Gene May Reverse Effects of Alzheimer's

APOE gene is a promising target for therapeutic approaches to Alzheimer's, says TAU researcher.

Prof. Illana Gozes Receives Top RARE Gene Award

World-renowned neuroscientist and geneticist celebrated for "commitment to research and new therapies."

Neural Membrane's Structural Instability May Trigger Multiple Sclerosis

TAU researchers discover physical mechanism that may enable immune system attack.

The Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at TAU Hosts First Annual Influencer Award

Homeland executive producer and TAU alum Gideon Raff honored at September 14th reception.

contentSecondary
c

© 2016 American Friends of Tel Aviv University
39 Broadway, Suite 1510 | New York, NY 10002 | 212.742.9070 | info@aftau.org
Privacy policy | Tel Aviv University