Role of astrocyte cell stiffness in controlling the glial scar
The “glial scar” forms in the brain after an injury, and serves to prevent regeneration of cut axons. The scar is comprised of astrocytes which increase their expression of extracellular matrix molecules, especially chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. It is these proteoglycans which are thought to impede regeneration, as preventing their synthesis or destroying them can improve axonal growth. The glial scar also has different mechanical properties than normal tissue, with some reports indicating greater and others lower stiffness. The summer project will focus on measuring stiffness of astrocytes in a cell culture model of the glial scar using AFM, and test the hypothesis that altering the mechanical properties of astrocytes will alter glial scar formation.