Repair of damaged brain cells depends on the procedure of astrogliosis, which has been shown to be modulated by the MAP3K13 (also known as leucine zipper-bearing kinase [LZK] gene. Astrogliosis (also known as reactive astrocytosis) is an abnormal swelling in the number of astrocytes due to the destruction of nearby neurons from CNS trauma, infection, ischemia, stroke, autoimmune responses, or neurodegenerative disease. In healthy neural tissue, astrocytes play critical roles in energy allocation, regulation of blood flow, homeostasis of extracellular fluid, homeostasis of ions and transmitters, regulation of synapse function, and synaptic remodeling. Astrogliosis changes the molecular expression and morphology of astrocytes, causing scar formation and, in severe cases, inhibition of axon regeneration.
The investigators reported that inducible LZK gene deletion in astrocytes of adult mice reduced astrogliosis and impaired glial scar formation, resulting in expand lesion size after spinal cord injury. Conversely, LZK overexpression in astrocytes enhanced astrogliosis and reduced lesion size. Remarkably, in the absence of injury, LZK overexpression alone induced widespread astrogliosis in the CNS and upregulated astrogliosis activator genes pSTAT3 and SOX9.Dr. Mark Goldberg, professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said that “Now we will be able to look at whether turning on the switch we identified can help in the healing process.”