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Spinal cord injury under the microscope


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In its core and in its entire length, the spinal cord has a canal filled with fluid. This central canal is lined by ependymal cells. This specific cell type interests numerous scientists because some of the ependymal cells are a stem cell niche. Waiting in standby mode they have the potential for self-repair. Unfortunately, it is poorly understood how the ependymal cells of the central canal are altered by spinal cord injury. Now it has been revealed by which changes ependymal cells have been affected.

Insights via immunhistochemical and electron microscopy techniques
Uruguayan neuroscientists led by Raúl Russo used advanced imaging techniques to study the ependymal cells in healthy and injured animals. The study revealed that ependymal cells have a major alteration of their cytoskeleton, the backbone that maintains their structure. After injury cells lose their typical polarized microstructure while also altering the expression of two regulating molecules called vimentin and glial fibrillary acidic protein. The latter are very important for the functioning of the ependymal cells.
These new insights lead to a better understanding of ependymal cells` morphology and function. The findings are essential to unleash the potential of ependymal cells for a future strategy of recovery.

This study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research and was supported by Wings for Life.

Source: Trujillo-Cenóz O, Rehermann MI, Maciel C, Falco MV, Fabbiani G, Russo RE. The ependymal cell cytoskeleton in the normal and injured spinal cord of mice. (2021) Journal of Neuroscience Research, 00, 1– 18. https://doi.org/10.1002/jnr.24918

You can find out more on the spinal cord and the influence of its damage on the human body in our basic-information. Wings for Life Glossary gives an understanding of scientific terms.