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Unveiling the scar

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When it comes to tissue injury, a scar formation is the natural answer of the body. We can observe this process most obviously at our skin. After an injury, scar tissue also appears inside the spinal cord.
By filling the inured area, this scar tissue contains damage. Therefore, it is essential for sealing off the injured tissue. Unfortunately, it also becomes a permanent barrier to regenerating axons.
Two potential treatment approaches currently tested in research aim at either:
1) delaying scar formation in acute injuries.
2) temporarily dissolving the scar in chronic injuries.
Both approaches open a window of opportunity during which neurons can regenerate and reconnect.

How is a scar structured?
Based in Stockholm, a scientific collaboration of Jonas Frisén and Christina Göritz scrutinized injured tissue of the central nervous system. To do so, they compared samples coming from different types of injuries, locations and even between mice and humans. The surprising result is that the fibrotic scar is similar, regardless of its origin, species or injury source.

A promising approach
The research group identified a specific cell type in the central nervous system as driving force when it comes to building up the scar: the so-called pericytes (type A). Disrupting only those cells could create a unique opportunity, while leaving the other scar tissue cells intact. This could facilitate regeneration while not compromising the scar’s most important function: sealing the injury.
This could be helpful in a variety of damages of the central nervous system, for example spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury or stroke.

This study was published in the journal Nature Communications and was supported by Wings for Life.

Source: Dias DO, Kalkitsas J, Kelahmetoglu Y, et al. Pericyte-derived fibrotic scarring is conserved across diverse central nervous system lesions. Nature Communications. 2021 Sep;12(1):5501. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-25585-5. PMID: 34535655.

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.