A new in vitro model of the glial scar inhibits axon growth

Ina B. Wanner, Andres Deik, Miguel Torres, Andrew Rosendahl, Joseph T. Neary, Vance P. Lemmon, John L. Bixby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Astrocytes respond to central nervous system (CNS) injury with reactive astrogliosis and participate in the formation of the glial scar, an inhibitory barrier for axonal regeneration. Little is known about the injury-induced mechanisms underlying astrocyte reactivity and subsequent development of an axon-inhibitory scar. We combined two key aspects of CNS injury, mechanical trauma and co-culture with meningeal cells, to produce an in vitro model of the scar from cultures of highly differentiated astrocytes. Our model displayed widespread morphological signs of astrocyte reactivity, increases in expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and accumulation of GFAP in astrocytic processes. Expression levels of scar-associated markers, phosphacan, neurocan, and tenascins, were also increased. Importantly, neurite growth from various CNS neuronal populations was significantly reduced when neurons were seeded on the scar-like cultures, compared with growth on cultures of mature astrocytes. Quantification of neurite growth parameters on the scar model demonstrated significant reductions in neuronal adhesion and neurite lengths. Interestingly, neurite outgrowth of postnatal neurons was reduced to a greater extent than that of embryonic neurons, and outgrowth inhibition varied among neuronal populations. Scar-like reactive sites and neurite-inhibitory patches were found throughout these cultures, creating a patchwork of growth-inhibitory areas mimicking a CNS injury site. Thus, our model showed relevant aspects of scar formation and produced widespread inhibition of axonal regeneration; it should be useful both for examining mechanisms underlying scar formation and to assess various treatments for their potential to improve regeneration after CNS injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1691-1709
Number of pages19
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2008


  • Astrogliosis
  • CNS injury
  • Fibroblast
  • Inhibition
  • Meningeal cells
  • Neurite outgrowth
  • Proteoglycans
  • Reactive astrocyte
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Tenascin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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