Oct. 25, 2021 — Star-shaped cells in our brains referred to as astrocytes play an important function in serving to us assume, transfer, and breathe. They nourish our neurons, the cells that transmit messages all through our mind and nervous system to manage our bodily features.
A brand new examine in mice means that astrocytes additionally could play a adverse function in our brains. When these cells encounter injured neurons, they launch poisonous fatty acids that might contribute to the tissue harm that happens with dementia and different neurodegenerative ailments.
After researchers made this discovery utilizing mice, they genetically engineered the animals to dam manufacturing of those fatty acids. Their goal was to see if stopping manufacturing of those toxins prevented nerve cell destruction.
Within the modified mice, 75% of the nerve cells survived, in contrast with 10% of such cells in animals with usually functioning astrocytes, based on the findings, which had been printed in Nature.
These poisonous fatty acids don’t have an effect on wholesome cells, the examine staff famous. The consequences could also be confined solely to nerve cells which can be broken, injured, or mutated.
These findings are preliminary, and the strategies the investigators utilized in mice aren’t prepared for use in human research. The researchers counsel that halting manufacturing of the fatty acids would possibly at some point be used to deal with circumstances akin to dementia, a number of sclerosis, Parkinson’s illness, and Huntington’s illness. The method is likely to be safer than attacking astrocytes instantly, as they nonetheless are wanted to nourish wholesome neurons.