Astrocytes play a crucial role in supporting motor neurons in health and disease. However, there have been few attempts to understand how aging may influence this effect. Here, we report that rat astrocytes show an age-dependent senescence phenotype and a significant reduction in their ability to support motor neurons. In a rodent model of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) overexpressing mutant superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), the rate of astrocytes acquiring a senescent phenotype is accelerated and they subsequently provide less support to motor neurons. This can be partially reversed by glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). Replacing aging astrocytes with young ones producing GDNF may therefore have a significant survival promoting affect on aging motor neurons and those lost through diseases such as ALS.
Keywords: Aging; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Astrocytes; Cellular senescence; Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor; Interleukin-6; Superoxide dismutase 1.
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