Dr. Christian Görtiz
Dr. Christian Görtiz   © Ulf Sirborn

Understanding scarring

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After a spinal cord injury, the damaged fibers in the spinal cord can hardly regenerate; movements and sensations are thus limited or completely impossible. This limitation comes in part from the formation of a scar around the injured area.
In order to solve this problem, Wings for Life started supporting an innovative project at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden a few years ago. A group of scientists under the direction of Dr. Christian Göritz and Dr. Jonas Frisén found a promising result: inhibition of some of the scarring promotes regeneration.

What is behind it?
After an injury, the tissue is devastated. A scar forms to seal the injured tissue and control the inflammation. It consists of two major components: the so-called fibrotic scar - a solid scar formed of connective tissue cells - and the glial scar. The latter is mainly formed by astrocytes.

There are indications that the glial scar is beneficial, but the hard fibrotic scar permanently impedes regeneration.

What has now been found out: the fibrotic scar is mainly formed by pericytes, a type of cells that line the blood vessels. As a result, researchers were able to target precisely these specific cells, thereby limiting scarring and ultimately promoting functional recovery of sensations and movements.

What's next?
These exciting results could lead to a new promising therapeutic approach to enable recovery from spinal cord injury in the future.

This study was published in the prestigious journal Cell and was supported by Wings for Life.

Source: “Reducing pericyte-derived scarring promotes recovery after spinal cord injury”. Dias DO, Kim H, Holl D, Werne Solnestam B, Lundeberg J, Carlén M, Göritz C, Frisén J. Cell, February 2018.