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The Vital Role of Astrocytes and Glial Cells in Nervous System Functioning: A Closer Look

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Mason Walker
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The Vital Role of Astrocytes and Glial Cells in Nervous System Functioning: A Closer Look

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Research has long emphasized the importance of neurons in maintaining the health and proper functioning of the nervous system. However, a new review published in @ScienceTM shines a spotlight on the often-underestimated astrocytes and other types of glial cells, such as oligodendrocytes and microglia. This intricate network of interconnections and interactions provides critical insights into the functioning of our nervous system.

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The Multifaceted Roles of Glial Cells

Glial cells, including astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia, play a critical role in various health and disease-related functions within the central nervous system. They modulate nerve signal propagation rate, control neurotransmitter traffic, and maintain nerve cells' ionic equilibrium. Their importance extends to diverse physiological and pathological conditions, ranging from the impact of obesity, prediabetes, and diabetes on microglia in the brain to their use in preclinical models for neurotrauma and neurodegenerative diseases.

Unlocking the Potential of Astrocytes

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Astrocytes contribute significantly to D-serine-mediated NMDAR signaling and possess potential that is yet to be fully exploited. The use of Designer Receptor Exclusive Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDS) has opened new avenues to study functional aspects of astrocytes’ activity and function during cognitive processes such as memory. This research could lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of cognitive function and potential treatments for cognitive disorders.

Astrocytes and Neuroinflammation

The importance of astrocytes extends to the realm of neuroinflammation associated with cerebral malaria. High expression of markers of cellular senescence and resistance to apoptosis in astrocytes during cerebral malaria in mice and humans has been observed. This is triggered by LC3-dependent non-conventional autophagy when interacting with the malaria parasite. Furthermore, the use of senolytic drugs has shown potential in preventing the accumulation of senescent astrocytes in the brain and reducing the inflammatory response.

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Astrocytes in Ageing and Disease

Research has also linked increased A1 astrocyte activation to hippocampal neural network abnormality in aged mice undergoing cardiac surgery. This connection mediates delirium-like behavior, spotlighting the potential role of astrocytes in age and disease-associated nervous system disorders.

In conclusion, the critical roles of astrocytes and other glial cells in the nervous system's health and disease cannot be overstated. Their involvement in various physiological and disease processes, coupled with their potential in therapeutic applications, underlines the need for further research in this area. The interconnectedness and interactions between these cells provide a fascinating insight into the complex workings of our nervous system, promising exciting discoveries in the future.

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