Astrocytes are often referred to, and historically have been regarded as, support cells of the mammalian CNS. Work over the last decade suggests otherwise-that astrocytes may in fact play a more active role in higher neural processing than previously recognized. Because astrocytes can potentially serve as novel therapeutic targets, it is critical to understand how astrocytes execute their diverse supportive tasks while maintaining neuronal health. To that end, this review focuses on the supportive roles of astrocytes, a line of study relevant to essentially all acute and chronic neurological diseases, and critically re-evaluates our concepts of the functional properties of astrocytes and relates these functions and properties to the intricate morphology of these cells.
Copyright © 2010 The American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.