Surprising New Findings Surrounding the Role of Astrocytes in the Brain and Gut

Advances in the Study of Astrocytes Show Promise in Controlling Brain Inflammation and Treating Epilepsy

Astrocytes are the most common cells found within the central nervous system (CNS). Even though these cells are abundant, astrocytes have long been poorly understood. Now, two recent studies are shedding more light on the function of astrocytes. These new understandings could lead to possible treatments for brain inflammation and epilepsy, two conditions that have historically been linked to autism. The first study comes from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, whose researchers discovered that a microbiome-controlled anti-inflammatory subset of astrocytes can actually prevent inflammation in the brain. Understanding the mechanisms which make this anti-inflammatory process occur could lead to therapeutic approaches to fight neurological diseases. The study’s authors suggest that using probiotics to address this gut-brain related issue may be a good way to regulate the astrocytes’ anti-inflammatory activity.  The second study involving astrocytes found that epileptic discharges, which are similar to seizures, lead to a rise in the pH of astrocytes. This change in pH interferes with the communication between intercellular astrocyte networks. The reduced signal transmission appears to aggravate epilpetic activity in the brain. This discovery may lead to future pharmacological treatments which would aim to suppress changes in the pH of astrocytes in order to maintain normal neuronal activity. 

Original Gut Brain Astrocyte Article

Study Abstract 

Original Epilepsy Astrocyte Article

Study Abstract

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