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Front. Pharmacol. | doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.01114

Astrocytes: role and functions in brain pathologies

  • 1University of Messina, Italy

Astrocytes are a population of cells with distinctive morphological and functional characteristics that differ within specific areas of the brain. Postnatally, astrocytes progenitors migrate to reach their brain area and related properties. They have a regulatory role of brain functions: are implicated in neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, controlling blood-brain barrier permeability and maintaining extracellular homeostasis. Mature astrocytes also express some genes enriched in cell progenitors, suggesting they can retain proliferative potential. Considering heterogeneity of cell population, it is not surprising that their disorders are related to a wide range of different neuro-pathologies. Brain diseases are characterized by the active inflammatory state of the astrocytes, which is usually described as up-regulation of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). In particular, the loss of astrocytes function as a result of cellular senescence could have implications for the neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer disease and Huntington disease, and for the aging brain. Astrocytes can also drive the induction and the progression of the inflammatory state due to their Ca2+ signals and that it is strongly related to the disease severity/state. Moreover, they contribute to the altered neuronal activity in several frontal cortex pathologies such as ischemic stroke and epilepsy. There we describe the current knowledge pertaining to astrocytes role in brain pathologies and discuss the possibilities to target them as approach toward pharmacological therapies for neuro-pathologies.

Keywords: Astrocytes, Alzheimer Disease, Huntington Disease, ischemic stroke, drug

Received: 17 Jun 2019; Accepted: 30 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Siracusa, Fusco and Cuzzocrea. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Salvatore Cuzzocrea, University of Messina, Messina, 98122, Sicilia, Italy, Salvatore.Cuzzocrea@unime.it