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Mult Scler. 2016 Aug;22(9):1114-24. doi: 10.1177/1352458516643396. Epub 2016 Apr 19.

Astrocytes in multiple sclerosis.

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Neuroimmunology, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada/Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada
Neuroimmunology, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Division of BioMedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL, Canada.


Recent experimental and clinical studies on astrocytes are unraveling the capabilities of these multi-functional cells in normal homeostasis, and in central nervous system (CNS) disease. This review focuses on understanding their behavior in all aspects of the initiation, evolution, and resolution of the multiple sclerosis (MS) lesion. Astrocytes display remarkable flexibility and variability of their physical structure and biochemical output, each aspect finely tuned to the specific stage and location of the disease, participating in both pathogenic and beneficial changes seen in acute and progressive forms. As examples, chemo-attractive or repulsive molecules may facilitate the entry of destructive immune cells but may also aid in the recruitment of oligodendrocyte precursors, essential for repair. Pro-inflammatory cytokines may attack pathogenic cells and also destroy normal oligodendrocytes, myelin, and axons. Protective trophic factors may also open the blood-brain barrier and modulate the extracellular matrix to favor recruitment and persistence of CNS-specific immune cells. A chronic glial scar may confer structural support following tissue loss and inhibit ingress of further noxious insults and also inhibit migration of reparative cells and molecules into the damaged tissue. Continual study into these processes offers the therapeutic opportunities to enhance the beneficial capabilities of these cells while limiting their destructive effects.


Astrocytes; immunopathology; multiple sclerosis; neuroprotection; reactivity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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