University of Kentucky researchers have provided the first direct evidence that activated astrocytes could play a harmful role in Alzheimer's disease. A UK news release explains, "The astrocyte is a very abundant non-neuronal cell type that performs absolutely critical functions for maintaining healthy nervous tissue.
However, in neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, many astrocytes exhibit clear physical changes often referred to as 'astrocyte activation.' The appearance of activated astrocytes at very early stages of Alzheimer's has led to the idea that astrocytes contribute to the emergence and/or maintenance of other pathological markers of the disease."
UK researchers gave mice gene therapy at a very young age and assessed them 10 months later. The astrocyte activation improved brain function and preserved cognitive function. The research, published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience, has led to a five-year, $1.5 million National Institutes of Health funding grant to the researchers and the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging to further this line of study. Chris Norris, an associate professor in the UK College of Medicine Department of Molecular and Biomedical Pharmacology, is the senior author of the study. (Read more)