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Human astrocytes: structure and functions in the healthy brain

Authors
  • Vasile, Flora1
  • Dossi, Elena1
  • Rouach, Nathalie1
  • 1 Collège de France, CNRS UMR 7241, INSERM U1050, Labex Memolife, PSL Research University, Neuroglial Interactions in Cerebral Physiopathology, Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology, Paris, France , Paris (France)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Brain Structure and Function
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Mar 09, 2017
Volume
222
Issue
5
Pages
2017–2029
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s00429-017-1383-5
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Data collected on astrocytes’ physiology in the rodent have placed them as key regulators of synaptic, neuronal, network, and cognitive functions. While these findings proved highly valuable for our awareness and appreciation of non-neuronal cell significance in brain physiology, early structural and phylogenic investigations of human astrocytes hinted at potentially different astrocytic properties. This idea sparked interest to replicate rodent-based studies on human samples, which have revealed an analogous but enhanced involvement of astrocytes in neuronal function of the human brain. Such evidence pointed to a central role of human astrocytes in sustaining more complex information processing. Here, we review the current state of our knowledge of human astrocytes regarding their structure, gene profile, and functions, highlighting the differences with rodent astrocytes. This recent insight is essential for assessment of the relevance of findings using animal models and for comprehending the functional significance of species-specific properties of astrocytes. Moreover, since dysfunctional astrocytes have been described in many brain disorders, a more thorough understanding of human-specific astrocytic properties is crucial for better-adapted translational applications.

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