Manipulation of Axonal Outgrowth via Exogenous Low Forces
De Vincentiis Sara, Alessandro Falconieri, Vincenzo Scribano, Samuele Ghignoli, Vittoria Raffa
Neurons are mechanosensitive cells. The role of mechanical force in the process of neurite initiation, elongation and sprouting; nerve fasciculation; and neuron maturation continues to attract considerable interest among scientists. Force is an endogenous signal that stimulates all these processes in vivo. The axon is able to sense force, generate force and, ultimately, transduce the force in a signal for growth. This opens up fascinating scenarios. How are forces generated and sensed in vivo? Which molecular mechanisms are responsible for this mechanotransduction signal? Can we exploit exogenously applied forces to mimic and control this process? How can these extremely low forces be generated in vivo in a non-invasive manner? Can these methodologies for force generation be used in regenerative therapies? This review addresses these questions, providing a general overview of current knowledge on the applications of exogenous forces to manipulate axonal outgrowth, with a special focus on forces whose magnitude is similar to those generated in vivo. We also review the principal methodologies for applying these forces, providing new inspiration and insights into the potential of this approach for future regenerative therapies.