Neuroscience

Star-shaped brain cells orchestrate neural connections

Brains are made of more than a tangled net of neurons. Star-like cells called astrocytes diligently fill in the gaps between neural nets, each wrapping itself around thousands of neuronal connections called synapses. This ...

Alzheimer's disease & dementia

New drug reverses loss of brain connections in Alzheimer's disease

The first experimental drug to boost brain synapses lost in Alzheimer's disease has been developed by researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. The drug, called NitroMemantine, combines two FDA-approved medicines ...

Neuroscience

Model for brain signaling flawed, new study finds

A new study out today in the journal Science turns two decades of understanding about how brain cells communicate on its head. The study demonstrates that the tripartite synapse – a model long accepted by the scientific ...

Medical research

Pathway deep in the brain makes it resilient after injury

For days, and even years, after someone suffers a stroke or traumatic brain injury, they have an increased risk of developing epilepsy. Now, researchers at Gladstone Institutes discovered that star-shaped cells called astrocytes ...

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Astrocyte

Astrocytes (etymology: astron gk. star, cyte gk. cell), also known collectively as astroglia, are characteristic star-shaped glial cells in the brain and spinal cord. They perform many functions, including biochemical support of endothelial cells that form the blood–brain barrier, provision of nutrients to the nervous tissue, maintenance of extracellular ion balance, and a role in the repair and scarring process of the brain and spinal cord following traumatic injuries.

Research since the mid-1990s has shown that astrocytes propagate intercellular Ca2+ waves over long distances in response to stimulation, and, similar to neurons, release transmitters (called gliotransmitters) in a Ca2+-dependent manner. Data suggest that astrocytes also signal to neurons through Ca2+-dependent release of glutamate. Such discoveries have made astrocytes an important area of research within the field of neuroscience.

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