Some people with serious damage to their spinal cords become confined to wheelchairs. They form permanent scars, which block the repair of lost nerve connections. Christian Göritz, an assistant professor at Karolinska Institutet, has shown in his earlier research that certain cells, called pericytes, play an important role in this process. Normally, these cells are located in the body’s blood vessels, but after an accident, they move to the scene of an injury and seal any lesions there.
As a Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Christian Göritz will continue to study scars formed around nerves. He wants to find out if pericytes also mediate scar formation after a stroke, induced by brain tumors or multiple sclerosis. He intends to investigate why the body forms this blocking scar tissue – what function it serves. The goal is to try to control scar formation, in order for its important functions to be preserved while still allowing damaged nerve pathways to be repaired. The hope is that in the future, a person struck by an injury to the spinal cord or by nerve-damaging diseases will be able to regain their sense of touch and their ability to move.
Photo: Ulf Sirborn