The circuitry of the human brain is formed by neuronal networks embedded into astroglial syncytia. The astrocytes perform numerous functions, providing for the overall brain homeostasis, assisting in neurogenesis, determining the micro-architecture of the grey matter, and defending the brain through evolutionary conserved astrogliosis programs.
Astroglial cells are engaged in neurological diseases by determining the progression and outcome of neuropathological process. Astrocytes are specifically involved in various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and various forms of dementia. Recent evidence suggest that early stages of neurodegenerative processes are associated with atrophy of astroglia, which causes disruptions in synaptic connectivity, disbalance in neurotransmitter homeostasis, and neuronal death through increased excitotoxicity. At the later stages, astrocytes become activated and contribute to the neuroinflammatory component of neurodegeneration.