Interaction of reactive astrocytes with type I collagen induces astrocytic scar formation through the integrin-N-cadherin pathway after spinal cord injury

Journal: Nature Medicine

Published: 2017-06-19

DOI: 10.1038/nm.4354

Affiliations: 3

Authors: 11

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Research Highlight

Injured spinal cords may not be scarred for life

©Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/OJO+/Getty

©Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/OJO+/Getty

Preventing scar formation after spinal cord injuries could help a damaged nervous system repair itself.

Spinal cord injuries can severely, if not permanently, impair movement and the senses by damaging the central nervous system. After injury, astrocytes, the most abundant cell in the nervous system, set out to treat the damaged area but eventually become ‘reactive’ and form scars, which prevent nerve fibres regenerating.

Researchers from Kyushu University transplanted reactive astrocytes from injured spinal tissue into undamaged spinal tissue, whereupon the astrocytes returned to their non-reactive state, suggesting that their activity depends on the environment. The team noticed that, in mice with spinal cord injuries, type I collagen — a key protein in tissue healing — in the spinal cord was assisting scar formation. Blocking collagen-astrocyte interactions prevented scar formation and allowed nerve fibres to regrow.

This understanding of how astrocytes prevent damaged nerve fibres regrowing could lead to new therapies that could help spinal injury patients regain movement.

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  1. Nature Medicine 23, 818-828 (2017). doi: 10.1038/nm.4354
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Kyushu University, Japan 1