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The soft mechanical signature of glial scars in the central nervous system

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Moeendarbary, E 
Weber, IP 
Sheridan, GK 
Koser, DE 
Soleman, S 


Injury to the central nervous system (CNS) alters the molecular and cellular composition of neural tissue and leads to glial scarring, which inhibits the regrowth of damaged axons. Mammalian glial scars supposedly form a chemical and mechanical barrier to neuronal regeneration. While tremendous effort has been devoted to identifying molecular characteristics of the scar, very little is known about its mechanical properties. Here we characterize spatiotemporal changes of the elastic stiffness of the injured rat neocortex and spinal cord at 1.5 and three weeks post-injury using atomic force microscopy. In contrast to scars in other mammalian tissues, CNS tissue significantly softens after injury. Expression levels of glial intermediate filaments (GFAP, vimentin) and extracellular matrix components (laminin, collagen IV) correlate with tissue softening. As tissue stiffness is a regulator of neuronal growth, our results may help to understand why mammalian neurons do not regenerate after injury.



biomaterials, diseases of the nervous system, rheology

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Nature Communications

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Nature Publishing Group
Medical Research Council (G1100312)
Medical Research Council (G1000864)
Academy of Medical Sciences (unknown)
International Foundation for Research in Paraplegia (IRP) (P172)
Medical Research Council (MR/R004544/1)
MRC (G1000864)
We are grateful for financial support by the Herchel Smith Foundation and Wellcome Trust-MIT Fellowships to E.M., an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship (ALTF 1263-2015; European Commission FP7 (Marie Curie Actions, LTFCOFUND2013, GA-2013- 609409)) to I.P.W., the German National Academic Foundation (Scholarship to D.E.K.) and the UK Medical Research Council (Career Development Award G1100312/1 to K.F.).