Our understanding of astrocytes and their role in neurological diseases has increased considerably over the past two decades as the diverse roles of these cells have become recognized. Our evolving understanding of these cells suggests that they are more than support cells for neurons and that they play important roles in CNS homeostasis under normal conditions, in neuroprotection and in disease exacerbation. These multiple functions make them excellent candidates for targeted therapies to treat neurological disorders. New technological advances, including in vivo imaging, optogenetics and chemogenetics, have allowed us to examine astrocytic functions in ways that have uncovered new insights into the dynamic roles of these cells. Furthermore, the use of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived astrocytes from patients with a host of neurological disorders can help to tease out the contributions of astrocytes to human disease. In this Review, we explore some of the technological advances developed over the past decade that have aided our understanding of astrocyte function. We also highlight neurological disorders in which astrocyte function or dysfunction is believed to have a role in disease pathogenesis or propagation and discuss how the technological advances have been and could be used to study each of these diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience