Can repetitive mechanical motion cause structural damage to axons?

Allegra Coppini, Alessandro Falconieri, Oz Mualem, Syeda Rubaiya Nasrin, Marine Roudon, Gadiel Saper, Henry Hess, Akira Kakugo, Vittoria Raffa, Orit Shefi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Biological structures have evolved to very efficiently generate, transmit, and withstand mechanical forces. These biological examples have inspired mechanical engineers for centuries and led to the development of critical insights and concepts. However, progress in mechanical engineering also raises new questions about biological structures. The past decades have seen the increasing study of failure of engineered structures due to repetitive loading, and its origin in processes such as materials fatigue. Repetitive loading is also experienced by some neurons, for example in the peripheral nervous system. This perspective, after briefly introducing the engineering concept of mechanical fatigue, aims to discuss the potential effects based on our knowledge of cellular responses to mechanical stresses. A particular focus of our discussion are the effects of mechanical stress on axons and their cytoskeletal structures. Furthermore, we highlight the difficulty of imaging these structures and the promise of new microscopy techniques. The identification of repair mechanisms and paradigms underlying long-term stability is an exciting and emerging topic in biology as well as a potential source of inspiration for engineers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1371738
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2024 Coppini, Falconieri, Mualem, Nasrin, Roudon, Saper, Hess, Kakugo, Raffa and Shefi.


  • axon
  • cytoskeleton
  • mechanical fatigue
  • mechanobiology
  • neuron


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