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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Slowing of axonal regeneration is correlated with increased axonal viscosity during aging

Phillip L Lamoureux1, Matthew R O'Toole2, Steven R Heidemann3 and Kyle E Miller1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1115, USA

2 Department of Mathematics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 48824-1115, USA

3 Department of Physiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-3320, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:140  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-140

Published: 25 October 2010

Abstract

Background

As we age, the speed of axonal regeneration declines. At the biophysical level, why this occurs is not well understood.

Results

To investigate we first measured the rate of axonal elongation of sensory neurons cultured from neonatal and adult rats. We found that neonatal axons grew 40% faster than adult axons (11.5 µm/hour vs. 8.2 µm/hour). To determine how the mechanical properties of axons change during maturation, we used force calibrated towing needles to measure the viscosity (stiffness) and strength of substrate adhesion of neonatal and adult sensory axons. We found no significant difference in the strength of adhesions, but did find that adult axons were 3 times intrinsically stiffer than neonatal axons.

Conclusions

Taken together, our results suggest decreasing axonal stiffness may be part of an effective strategy to accelerate the regeneration of axons in the adult peripheral nervous system.