A gene that is associated with regeneration of injured nerve cells has been identified by scientists led by Melissa Rolls at Penn State University. The team, which includes scientists at Penn State and Duke University, has found that a mutation in a single gene can entirely shut down the process by which axons -- the parts of the nerve cell that are responsible for sending signals to other cells -- regrow themselves after being cut or damaged. This image illlustrates a finding of the research, which is that, in fruit flies with two normal copies of the spastin gene, Rolls and her team found that severed axons were able to regenerate. However, in fruit flies with two or even only one abnormal spastin gene, the severed axons were not able to regenerate. "We are hopeful that this discovery will open the door to new research related to spinal-cord and other neurological disorders in humans," Rolls said. The journal Cell Reports will publish an early online copy of the paper on 1 November, and also will include the paper in the monthly issue of the journal, which will be published on 29 November 2012.