Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a protein involved in the development of sympathetic nerve fibers and some sensory fibers. It is secreted by effector (gland and muscle) cells, picked up by axon terminals, and carried back to the soma by retrograde axonal transport. NGF guides developing nerve fibers to the appropriate target cells and thus plays a key role in the proper "wiring" of the nervous system to its effectors. The study of NGF and other growth factors is one of the most rapidly developing areas of biomedical research today, especially since recombinant DNA technology has made it possible to produce large quantities of these chemicals for study and clinical use. The use of NGF to treat Alzheimer disease is discussed in insight 12.4 on page 475.
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