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Michael Sofroniew - glial scar

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    Michael Sofroniew - glial scar

    Wings for life article on Michael Sofroniew


    When axons are severed, they do not grow back automatically. Right after the initial trauma, the injury site is rapidly locked in by a strong cellular and chemical barrier called an astrocyte scar. These scars have a beneficial effect, since they decrease inflammation at the injury site and prevent the spread of tissue damage. However, scientists believed for a long time that they also obstructed axonal regeneration. In a series of experiments, Professor Sofroniew and his team were able to promote the regrowth of the axons even in the presence of the scar. They then prevented the scar formation, expecting even better regrowth, but to their surprise the regrowth was significantly reduced. These results challenge the accepted model of completely ?bad? scar tissue, and show that astrocyte scar cells are somehow needed to support the regeneration of axons. The goal is now to better understand this mechanism to enhance the beneficial aspect of the scar tissue.

    Reactive astrocytes are recognized increasingly for their important contributions to injury response, disease pathogenesis, plasticity, and repair in the CNS (Pekny et al., 2016). A better understanding of the molecular underpinning of reactive astrogliosis provides valuable tools to manipulate this process, unravel its complex functions, and affect the outcome of a multitude of neurological conditions. Our study revealed LZK to be a positive, cell-intrinsic regulator of astrogliosis, as evidenced by its ability to promote the expression of reactive astrocyte markers, astrocyte cell proliferation, and maturation of the glial scar. Notably, overexpressing LZK in astrocytes alone was sufficient to drive widespread astrogliosis throughout the otherwise unperturbed CNS. These data support LZK as a potential target of astroglial manipulation for improving the outcome in a spectrum of CNS injuries and diseases.