Astrocytes, also known collectively as astroglia, are characteristic star-shaped glial cells in the brain and spinal cord. Astrocytes are the most abundant cell of the human brain. They perform many functions, including provision of nutrients to the nervous tissue, biochemical support of endothelial cells that form the blood–brain barrier, maintenance of extracellular ion balance, and a role in the repair and scarring process of the brain and spinal cord following traumatic injuries. ALS is characterized by the degeneration of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain stem. The most significant advances in experimental mouse models have been based on SOD1 mutations, accounting for approximately two per cent of all cases. Astrocytes, cells in the brain and spinal cord that modulate neural functions, have been found to play a role in the interaction of familial ALS (FALS) caused by SOD1 mutations. Researchers have been scrambling to develop a model that can provide insights into the roles astrocytes play in sporadic ALS (SALS), accounting for 90 per cent of all ALS cases.
Term Type: