Jerold Chun, M.D., Ph.D., professor and senior vice president of Neuroscience Drug Discovery at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP). Credit: Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP)
Astrocytes—the star-shaped cells of our brain—are very busy. Their job description includes maintaining the blood-brain barrier, removing excess neurotransmitters, repairing brain tissue and more.
Their important role in brain function suggests astrocytes are also involved in disease. Scientists are particularly interested in uncovering how they may drive inflammation in the brain. Brain inflammation is linked to a host of mysterious and devastating diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease and mental illness. New treatments are urgently needed for these disorders.
Now, scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have identified an astrocyte subpopulation as the dominant cell type to spring into action in vivo (in a living organism) in a neuroinflammatory disease setting. Their early activation inspired their new name: ieAstrocytes (immediate early astrocytes). The study published today in eNeuro.
“There is an urgent need for treatments of brain inflammation disorders that are involved in many diseases, including MS and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Jerold Chun, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the paper and professor and senior vice president of Neuroscience Drug Discovery at SBP. “Developing therapies that prevent the formation of ieAstrocytes or reduce their activation levels in the brain could offer new approaches for treating neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases.”