Slowing of axonal regeneration is correlated with increased axonal viscosity during aging
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
BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:140 doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-140Published: 25 October 2010
As we age, the speed of axonal regeneration declines. At the biophysical level, why this occurs is not well understood.
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.
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.