Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Toxic brain cells may drive many neurodegenerative disorders - NEUROSCIENCE
While most of us haven’t heard of astrocytes, these cells are four times as plentiful in the human brain as nerve cells. Now, a team led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine has found that astrocytes, which perform many indispensable functions in the brain, can take on a villainous character, destroying nerve cells and likely driving many neurodegenerative diseases.
“We’ve learned astrocytes aren’t always the good guys,” said the study’s senior author, Ben Barres, MD, PhD, professor of neurobiology, of developmental biology and of neurology and neurological sciences. “An aberrant version of them turns up in suspicious abundance in all the wrong places in brain-tissue samples from patients with brain injuries and major neurological disorders from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to multiple sclerosis. The implications for treating these diseases are profound.”