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Cell Death Differ. 2009 Mar;16(3):378-85. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2008.172. Epub 2008 Dec 5.

Astroglia in dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

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Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


Astrocytes, the most numerous cells in the brain, weave the canvas of the grey matter and act as the main element of the homoeostatic system of the brain. They shape the microarchitecture of the brain, form neuronal-glial-vascular units, regulate the blood-brain barrier, control microenvironment of the central nervous system and defend nervous system against multitude of insults. Here, we overview the pathological potential of astroglia in various forms of dementias, and hypothesise that both atrophy of astroglia and reactive hypertrophic astrogliosis may develop in parallel during neurodegenerative processes resulting in dementia. We also show that in the transgenic model of Alzheimer's disease, reactive hypertrophic astrocytes surround the neuritic plaques, whereas throughout the brain parenchyma astroglial cells undergo atrophy. Astroglial atrophy may account for early changes in synaptic plasticity and cognitive impairments, which develop before gross neurodegenerative alterations.

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