Astrocytes are now known to be involved in the most integrated functions of the central nervous system. These functions are not only necessary for the normally working brain but are also critically involved in many pathological conditions, including stroke. Astrocytes may contribute to damage by propagating spreading depression or by sending proapoptotic signals to otherwise healthy tissue via gap junction channels. Astrocytes may also inhibit regeneration by participating in formation of the glial scar. On the other hand, astrocytes are important in neuronal antioxidant defense and secrete growth factors, which probably provide neuroprotection in the acute phase, as well as promoting neurogenesis and regeneration in the chronic phase after injury. A detailed understanding of the astrocytic response, as well as the timing and location of the changes, is necessary to develop effective treatment strategies for stroke patients.