Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 251–264 | Cite as

Reactive Astrogliosis after Spinal Cord Injury—Beneficial and Detrimental Effects

  • Soheila Karimi-AbdolrezaeeEmail author
  • Rohini Billakanti


Reactive astrogliosis is a pathologic hallmark of spinal cord injury (SCI). It is characterised by profound morphological, molecular, and functional changes in astrocytes that occur within hours of SCI and evolves as time elapses after injury. Astrogliosis is a defense mechanism to minimize and repair the initial damage but eventually leads to some detrimental effects. Reactive astrocytes secrete a plethora of both growth promoting and inhibitory factors after SCI. However, the production of inhibitory components surpasses the growth stimulating factors, thus, causing inhibitory effects. In severe cases of injury, astrogliosis results in the formation of irreversible glial scarring that acts as regeneration barrier due to the expression of inhibitory components such as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. Scar formation was therefore recognized from a negative perspective for many years. Accumulating evidence from pharmacological and genetic studies now signifies the importance of astrogliosis and its timing for spinal cord repair. These studies have advanced our knowledge regarding signaling pathways and molecular mediators, which trigger and modulate reactive astrocytes and scar formation. In this review, we discuss the recent advances in this field. We also review therapeutic strategies that have been developed to target astrocytes reactivity and glial scaring in the environment of SCI. Astrocytes play pivotal roles in governing SCI mechanisms, and it is therefore crucial to understand how their activities can be targeted efficiently to harness their potential for repair and regeneration after SCI.


Astrocytes Spinal cord injury Glial scar Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans Chondroitinase Axonal regeneration Cell replacement Therapeutic targets 



Blood–brain barrier


Blood–spinal barrier


Bone morphogenetic proteins


Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans


Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans


Central nervous system




Extracellular matrix


Glial fibrillary acidic proteins






Neural precursor cells


Oligodendrocyte precursor cells


Receptor protein tyrosine phosphatases


Spinal cord injury


Signal transducers and activators of transcription3


Transforming growth factors


Tumor necrosis factor-alpha




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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Regenerative Medicine Program, Departments of Physiology and Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, the Spinal Cord Research CenterUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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