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Principles of astrogliopathology: from reactivity to atrophy and degeneration
Published on March 31, 2022 45 min
A selection of talks on Neuroscience
Roles of microglia in the healthy brain
- Dr. Marie-Ève Tremblay
- University of Victoria, Canada
Bioelectronic medicine: immunomodulation by vagus nerve stimulation
- Prof. Paul Peter Tak
- Amsterdam University Medical Centre, The Netherlands
My name is Alexei Verkhratsky. I'm a Professor of Neurophysiology at Manchester University in the UK. I do mostly physiology and pathophysiology of neural glial cells. My lecture today is dedicated to the principles of astrogliopathology, which will cover all the different phases of pathological changes in astrocytes and astroglia from reactivity to degeneration and atrophy.
Unfortunately, I have to start with a rather unpleasant statement. There are about 600 neurological diseases in this world. Despite the incredible progress of medicine that has been achieved in the last century, we now can change joints and livers and hearts. Where we are in terms of neurological diseases, this remains still at the level of the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century. We can alleviate certain symptoms, but we cannot cure a single neurological disease, particularly when it comes to chronic diseases of the brain, such as psychiatric diseases or neurodegenerative diseases. Of course, the clear reason for that is that the brain is an incredibly complex organ, and we don't even know what happens in the human brain and physiology nor say what is going to happen in pathological conditions. But also there is one important thing, over the last century, the major target of our therapeutic strategies were neurons. At the same time, glial cells, which are going to be the focus of these lectures, have been rather neglected, despite the fact that they participate in all neurological diseases.
Evolution has made a specialization between the cells. There is diversification of functions. Of course, neurons are perfected for information processing and sending action potentials. Neuroglial cells are perfected for keeping homeostasis. However, when pathology comes and a lesion appears and injures the brain, the response of those cells to the lesion are fundamentally different. Neurons become stressed, they cannot protect themselves, and they cannot protect the brain as an organ. Glial cells, in contrast, are changing dramatically as they undergo substantial morphological and functional changes, which allow them to protect the brain and to protect the nervous tissue. As long as this protection is there, the disease cannot develop at the moment. If the protection of glial cells fail, then neurological disease begins evolving. If we define a disease as a homeostatic failure