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S1P is a lysophospholipid with an asphingosine backbone. Its existence has been known for a long time, but its physiological function remained unknown.
It was originally thought to be an intracellular second messenger, but in 1998 it was reported to be an extracellular ligand for a G protein-coupled receptor, endothelial differentiation gene-1. Today, many of physiological functions of S1P are thought to be mediated through its extracellular receptor, S1P receptor (S1PR).
In collaboration with the orthopedics department, we found that S1P acts as a potent chemotactic factor for neural stem cells.
S1P levels are elevated at the sites of spinal cord injury and cerebral infarction, and S1P plays a key role as chemotactic factor in injured nerves.
Administration of FTY720, a S1P receptor (S1PR) agonist, immediately after spinal cord injury, improved the motor function in a mouse model of spinal cord injury. FTY720, under the name Gilenya, is used clinically for refractory multiple sclerosis. From our findings, it is expected that this drug will also be effective for spinal cord injury.