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Astrocytic metabolic shuttle in aged brain injuries

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The wide diversity of applications of knowledge about brain functions would make neuroscience research on astrocytes interesting at any point in time. This is especially important now because in addition to intrinsic interest in the nervous system, the field has been developing at an increasingly rapid pace. ...

The wide diversity of applications of knowledge about brain functions would make neuroscience research on astrocytes interesting at any point in time. This is especially important now because in addition to intrinsic interest in the nervous system, the field has been developing at an increasingly rapid pace. Progress over the past decade has exceeded expectations by a wide margin because of newly available scientific techniques, innovative institutional arrangements for studying the nervous system at universities, and cooperation among different scientific disciplines. Continued rapid progress is likely if present levels of support for research are maintained.

Progress in neuroscience research during the last few decades has led to new understanding of the double role of astrocytes in the nervous system. This is particularly important in a scientific way, as in some conditions astrocytes may enhance damage and impair regeneration, but they do have a main role in bioenergetics and protection to neurons. Many of the most important promises of research on astrocytes have yet to be fulfilled. Indeed, there is not yet sufficient knowledge to prevent or treat effectively many highly prevalent and disabling neurological diseases. Most of the risks and benefits related to social applications of this knowledge remain possibilities rather than facts. The diverse social ramifications of these applications can only be anticipated, not confidently projected. Research on “Astrocytes bioenergetics in the aged brain” is a topic that bears watching by scientists, health care professionals, industrialists, and policy makers. Now may be a propitious time to search for ways to translate neuroscience into application, and to anticipate the need for public discussion.

In this research topic, we will focus on the astrocytic metabolic shuttle targeting neuronal protection following injury in the aged brain. For instance, astrocytes have been considered to be non-excitable support cells that are relatively resistant to brain injury. This view has changed radically during the past twenty years. Multiple essential functions are performed by astrocytes in normal brain. Astrocytes are dynamically involved in synaptic transmission, metabolic and ionic homeostasis, and inflammatory maintenance of the blood brain barrier. Advances in our understanding of astrocytes include new observations about their structure, organization, and function. Astrocytes also contribute significantly to brain antioxidant defense with evidence they can upregulate endothelial cell antioxidant protection. All of these processes are highly energy demanding, and adequate metabolic support, especially to astrocytes, is imperative to mantain brain homeostasis. Therefore, in this research topic we will focus on those astrocytic metabolic mechanisms evolved to protect the brain against the consequences of a brain injury and following aging, and highlight some novel strategies to enhance the astrocytic metabolic support to neurons as a potential neuroprotective approach.


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