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

Emad Moeendarbary, Isabell P. Weber, Graham Sheridan, David E. Koser, Sara Soleman, Barbara Haenzi, Elizabeth J. Bradbury, James Fawcett, Kristian Franze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2017

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© The Author(s) 2017. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit


  • Neuroscience


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