MONTREAL, June 8, 2011 /CNW Telbec/ - Dr. Frédéric Charron, researcher
at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), and his
team have shown for the first time that a key molecule of the vascular
system directs axons during the formation of neural circuits. This
connection between the nervous system and the vascular system could be
a good starting point for the development of therapies for
neurodegenerative diseases. The discovery will be published tomorrow by
Neuron, a scientific journal of the Cell Press group.
"To properly form neural circuits, developing axons (long extensions of
neurons that make the nerves) need molecules to guide them towards
their target, in the same way that road signs guide us when we drive,"
explains Pierre Fabre, doctoral student in Dr. Charron's team and first
co-author of the article.
The nervous system is not the only system formed during human embryo
development. Blood vessels are also organized into a very complex
network, which led to the idea that certain molecules could be reused
by both the nervous system and the vascular system. In fact, recent
studies revealed that the reference points used to guide axons also
help blood vessels reach their targets.
"One of the key molecules of the vascular system is the vascular
endothelial growth factor, better known as VEGF," adds Mr. Fabre. "We
discovered that VEGF is able to attract nervous system axons. More
specifically, we identified Flk-1 as the receptor responsible for this
effect, making it a prime target for the development of therapies to
re-grow axons after lesions of the central nervous system or
This scientific breakthrough was possible due to an innovative technique
developed by Dr. Charron's laboratory a few years ago. The system uses
a microscopic device to control and observe, in real time, the axon's
behaviour in response to guidance molecules. This technique allowed the
researchers to follow the axon's trajectory and revealed VEGF's role in
"This research could have an important long-term impact in the field of
spinal cord repair, as the results will help us better understand the
development of the spinal cord," says Dr. Charron, Director of the
IRCM's Molecular Biology of Neural Development research unit. "The more
we learn about the molecules needed to appropriately guide axons, the
more it will become possible to develop a therapy to treat spinal cord
"These new findings are of great interest to the research community as
they offer new hope for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases,"
says Dr. Anthony Phillips, CIHR's Scientific Director of the Institute
of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. "CIHR recognizes the
important work of Dr. Charron's team and this novel discovery linking
blood vessels and neurons to neural circuit formation."
This research project was conducted in close collaboration with Dr.
Peter Carmeliet's (senior co-author of the article with Dr. Charron)
team at the Vesalius Research Center, in Leuven (Belgium), including
Dr. Carmen Ruiz de Almodovar, first co-author of the study with Mr.
Research carried out in Dr. Charron's laboratory was funded by the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Fonds de
recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ). Pierre Fabre also holds
scholarships from the Université de Montréal and the IRCM.
For more information, please refer to the article summary published by Neuron: http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(11)00343-6.
About Dr. Frédéric Charron
Frédéric Charron obtained his PhD in experimental medicine from McGill
University. He is an Associate IRCM Research Professor and Director of
the Molecular Biology of Neural Development research unit. Dr. Charron
is also associate researcher in the Department of Medicine at the
Université de Montréal, and associate member of the Department of
Medicine (Division of Experimental Medicine), the Department of
Biology, and the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at McGill
University. In addition, he is a member of the McGill Integrated
Program in Neuroscience, the Montreal Regional Brain Tumor Research
Group at the Montreal Neurological Institute, and the Centre of
Excellence in Neurosciences (CENUM) at the Université de Montréal. Dr.
Charron is a Research Scholar from the Fonds de recherche en santé du
About the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
Founded in 1967, the IRCM (www.ircm.qc.ca) is currently comprised of 36 research units in various fields, namely
immunity and viral infections, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,
cancer, neurobiology and development, systems biology and medicinal
chemistry. It also houses three specialized research clinics, seven
core facilities and two research platforms with state-of-the-art
equipment. The IRCM employs 425 people and is an independent
institution affiliated with the Université de Montréal. The IRCM clinic
is associated to the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal
(CHUM). The IRCM also maintains a long-standing association with McGill
About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
CIHR (www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's
mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its
translation into improved health, more effective health services and
products, and a strengthened Canadian health-care system. Composed of
13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,600
health researchers and trainees across Canada.
SOURCE INSTITUT DE RECHERCHES CLINIQUES DE MONTREAL
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