Resident Neural Stem Cells Restrict Tissue Damage and Neuronal Loss After Spinal Cord Injury in Mice

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Science  01 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6158, pp. 637-640
DOI: 10.1126/science.1242576

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The Good Scar

We tend to think of scars as bad and, in the central nervous system, as counterproductive to recovery. Studying mice, Sabelström et al. (p. 637) prevented resident stem cells from proliferating after spinal cord injury. Without the astrocytes generated by the neural stem cells, recovery from spinal cord lesions was poorer than normal. Thus, somewhat counterintuitively, glial scarring appears to limit spinal cord damage and support the remaining cells.


Central nervous system injuries are accompanied by scar formation. It has been difficult to delineate the precise role of the scar, as it is made by several different cell types, which may limit the damage but also inhibit axonal regrowth. We show that scarring by neural stem cell–derived astrocytes is required to restrict secondary enlargement of the lesion and further axonal loss after spinal cord injury. Moreover, neural stem cell progeny exerts a neurotrophic effect required for survival of neurons adjacent to the lesion. One distinct component of the glial scar, deriving from resident neural stem cells, is required for maintaining the integrity of the injured spinal cord.

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